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First Drone Cargo Delivery of an Airbus & XAG Joint Development Announced

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  • Today’s first flight over 1.6 km took 3 minutes and delivered cc
  • A joint development between Airbus and XAG
  • Start of an MVP service using the Project Vesper Mk1 cargo drone, a retrofitted XAG P-30 aircraft

The start of a limited delivery trial in Guangzhou, China, as part of the joint development of a drone cargo service, was announced today at XAG headquarters.

This joint development agreement was originally signed on July 2, 2019, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Dalian (China) by Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space and Peng Bin, CEO and co-founder of XAG.

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Formerly known as XAircraft, XAG is an agriculture technology company with pioneering expertise in precision agriculture and remote sensing drones, founded in 2007 and headquartered in Guangzhou, China.

Significantly contributing to the future of crop yield, reduction of pesticides, and precision farming in China, XAG has been developing crop-dusting drones since 2013 and now accounts for more than half of China’s commercial drone flights. Along with visual recognition, artificial intelligence, farmland land information, and crop data, XAG provides agricultural mapping drones and hardware services. Last year alone, XAG’s fleet of 40,000 drones performed over 6.5 million flights.

project vesper

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Since July 2019, Airbus and XAG teams have combined efforts to develop a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) service to start testing deliveries. This MVP is built on top of the P30 platform, XAG’s award-winning plant protection drone. With a take-off weight of slightly under 25 kilos and a payload of up to 4 kilos, this drone flies at an altitude of fewer than 400 ft at up to 12 meters/second.

The objective of the trial is to validate a highly automated delivery flight from the vendor to the destination and back across precisely pre-selected pathways. Joining the extensive experience of XAG in designing, manufacturing, and operating small drones at scale – tens of thousands of drone flights every day – to Airbus’ expertise in design, engineering, assembly, and certification of aircraft of various form factors, this trial will create feedback cycles to learn and iterate on a drone cargo service in China. 

In this trial, a select group of customers in Guangzhou can order their favorite food from a nearby noodle shop through the Drone Cargo WeChat application. The fresh food is prepared and then the cooked dish, carefully placed into an insulated box, is itself loaded into the waiting drone on a custom locker. The noodle shop is only 1.6 kilometers away, the flight to the first destination locker takes just under five minutes. The customer receives a notification on their phone about the approaching drone and directions to the nearest locker. The drone lands at a safe height, separated from people, and the customer retrieves their food.

Meng Yu was the lucky first customer of this novel service. She ordered a Lanzhou beef noodle dish and excitedly declared:

“This is so cool. We do not have a company canteen so my colleagues and I order takeaway every day. Deliveries could never be sent upstairs in the past, but this time it just comes to me from the sky right to our roof terrace! My noodles were hot as I like them and it took under 15 minutes from ordering to enjoying! Usually, I had to wait for up to an hour during peak lunch hour and often the food was cold.”

Justin Gong, Vice President and Co-founder of XAG, commented: “With 12 years of experience in UAS development and manufacturing, XAG keeps pace with changing demands in the field of agriculture. Agility and innovation are built in our DNA. Partnering with Airbus to explore drone delivery service enables us to learn from its 50 years’ experience of flying and air safety management. Foreseeing the broad prospect of drone applications, XAG determines to consistently improve the aerial system, to better serve residents in both rural and urban area.”  

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