Pablo Air trials 7-Eleven drone delivery in Korea

  • August 1, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

Pablo Air has partnered 7-Eleven to open South Korea’s first convenience store drone delivery station.

Pablo Air has opened the drone delivery station that consists of a control tower and the drone’s vertical take-off and landing aerodrome, or helipad, which allows one-stop processing from the taking of delivery orders to the completion of the delivery flight.

The service is a beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight in which the drone is controlled with a web-based ground control system (WGCS) paired with a smart mobility integrated control system through PamNet, Pablo Air’s mobility network, for safe and agile operation of the aircraft.

Customers can order convenience store items for drone delivery through the Allivery app and have their items sent to the delivery station in a rural resort town of Gapyeong, which is about 1km away, or three minutes by drone. After an order is received, the items are moved by a winch connected to the drone station to the rooftop, where the helipad is located.

Once the items have been loaded in the drone’s delivery box, the ground control system operator sends the drone on an autonomous flight to the delivery station. After completing QR authorisation, the customer can safely take out their ordered items, and then the drone returns back to its starting point.

Drone delivery is available from 10am to 7pm before sunset from Tuesday to Saturday every week starting last month. From now until the end of this year, there is no minimum order amount and delivery is free of charge.

The drone is 990 by 990 by 750mm in size, has a maximum payload of 5kg and a maximum flight time of 25 minutes. For the pilot programme, the drone flies at an average speed of 36km/h and, since the delivery station is only 1km from the convenience store, the drone can complete its delivery in about 150 seconds. Pablo Air plans to continue researching the payload and volume of the shipping box to improve the service.

“We have been steadily preparing for our drone delivery services, including by obtaining flight approval permissions, for the past two years,” said a Pablo Air official. “We have also implemented complementary technologies such as triple communication networks (RF, LTE and satcom) and parachutes for optimal drone safety.”

Kim Young-Joon, CEO of Pablo Air, added: “Seven-Eleven and Pablo Air are the first companies in Korea to provide complete A-to-Z services, from taking app orders to preparing products and completing deliveries. We will do our best to provide safe and effective delivery services.”

But what do the locals think? One resident said: “The local community also seems receptive to the services because the Gapyeong area is a mountainous area with rivers and lakes and, if we can provide stable drone delivery services, it will benefit the surrounding commercial districts. We are looking forward to enjoying these safe and convenient services.”

In June, the Korean government promised to ease regulations and establish a legal basis for the drone delivery industry as part of its new industry regulation improvement plan. To facilitate these changes, Pablo Air said it would gather data related to the drone industry and provide it to the government, and that the current pilot project would act as a blueprint for the future drone industry.

In addition, Pablo Air is also conducting a drone delivery demonstration project in the USA. In January, it signed a business agreement with Nuair, the north-east USA airspace integration research alliance, and set up an integrated control system at Griffiss International Airport in New York to conduct VLOS and BVLOS delivery demonstrations. It expects to begin operating its drone delivery services in Arizona and New York after completing the demonstration projects.

After entering the Korean unmanned aerial vehicle market with its swarm flight technology in 2018, Pablo Air has engaged in a wide array of integrated drone activities, including UAV control systems, aircraft development, drone delivery platforms and services, and ICT drone shows. In addition, it is continuously engaged in R&D and commercialisation efforts at home and abroad with the aim of growing as a true pioneer of the global UAV industry. It set up its US branch in 2021.

Pablo Air is part of the Born2Global Centre, a full-cycle service platform that supports the global expansion of promising companies. Established in 2013 under the Ministry of Science & ICT, Born2Global has been setting the standards for a successful start-up ecosystem in Korea and continues to expand and transform start-ups so they are engaged, well equipped and connected with the global market.