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Robots Will Soon Deliver Both Medicine And Mail

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Paketkopter.

Deutsche Post, a German express delivery company, is currently testing an aerial drone which, in the near future, could be used to deliver medicine and supplies to remote settlements and relief areas. The robot - which takes the form of a little yellow helicopter with four propellers - is capable of transporting up to six and a half pounds of goods, eliminating the need for expensive and complicated transportation concerns typically associated with such air drops.

The craft, which is remote-controlled, just finished its maiden voyage, carrying a small package from a pharmacy in the city of Bonn to the Deutsche Post headquarters across the Rhine River.  This drone took approximately two minutes to complete its journey, flying at a height of 50 meters for the entire span.

For the initial test, the Paketkopter was controlled by two operators. For future flights, however, the company has stated that the technology exists to operate the drones by using GPS alone. Granted, that's something for the future- the flight this week was simply a research project to see how the technology might actually function for real-world deliveries. There are currently no plans to begin a regular delivery schedule in the immediate future, but such a thing is likely to be in the wings for a later date anyway. 

This announcement comes right on the heels of another earlier in the week, that Amazon is toying with the idea of implementing automated drones to manage product deliveries. These "Octocopter" drones will be part of a new service known as "Amazon Prime Air." With the service, a new package will ship out within 30 minutes after an order is placed, will utilize a drone designed to deliver the order directly to the user's doorstep using GPS. An individual drone is about the size of a remote-controlled airplane, and makes use of eight propellers to transport shoebox-sized packages. 

This might sound like something right out of science fiction, but it's actually very, very real. As Cnet notes, aerial drones have already begun to see widespread use as a delivery mechanism in China, while a textbook rental startup in Australia plans to start using drones to deliver its packages to customers. Presumably, Amazon will design drones capable of transporting larger packages in the future. 

"One day, Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road," explained Amazon. "Our vehicles will be built with multiple redundancies and designed to commercial aviation standards."