27 September 2023

Graduates of BUT are contributing to a revolution in logistics. They are preparing infrastructure of delivery of parcels by drones

The 3L Robotics team consists of graduates of three faculties of BUT (Brno University of Technology) | Autor: archives pf 3L Robotics

Graduates of three BUT faculties came together at 3L Robotics to design the first helipad for drone delivery in the Czech Republic. It should operate on the building I of the campus in Vlněná Street in Brno, which is to be the most modern building of its kind in Central Europe. In the future, an entire network of helipads capable of communicating with drones and taking delivery could exist. The current legislation does not yet allow such methods of transporting goods to customers. According to Luboš Lněnička, founder of 3L Robotics, it is only a matter of time before the existing laws are amended.

Luboš Lněnička, Roman Hošek and Aleš Juráček are classmates from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Communication of the BUT. Jan Trenz and Michal Král are from the Faculty of Civil Engineering of the BUT. Michal Král also worked at the Faculty of Business of the BUT and almost twenty years ago founded the student organization BEST, where most of today's 3L Robotics team came together.

According to Luboš Lněnička, it is only a matter of time before drones start delivering packages in the Czech Republic | Autor: pixabay

Their friendship continued and they decided to work together on projects that focus on development and innovation in the field of last mile delivery. “This is the last part of delivering parcels by couriers, autonomous solutions or drones,” says Luboš Lněnička, founder of 3L Robotics.

His company has already completed several large and small projects in this area. For example, private mailboxes for package delivery 247Box. At the moment, however, they are working on a crucial contract that could change the shape of logistics in the Czech Republic for the future. He is behind the first helipad for delivery drones. “CTPark, with whom we have a very good relationship, wanted to build a new building in the campus in Vlněná Street in Brno. Building I is intended to be the landmark of the campus, measuring over eighty metres. The goal is to make this building the most modern building of its kind in at least Central, if not all of Europe. CTPark therefore started looking for innovations for this project,” Luboš Lněnička describes the beginning of the cooperation.

Delivery is still hindered by Czech legislation

3L Robotics eventually secured the solution for a helipad to be placed on the roof of the building and used to deliver packages using drones. “We have completely prepared the documentation. We designed how the helipad should look, how it should be embedded in the building. We had to solve a lot of problems to make it all work. For example, fire safety or insulation,” says Michal Král from 3L Robotics.

From a technical point of view, it was then necessary to ensure communication between the drone and the drone operators. In the future, 3L Robotics envisages that the drone will not only deliver the parcel to the building, but will let other robotic systems know about it, which will take it over and deliver it to the office or to the recipient's desk. “To be able to communicate effectively with drones and systems, we started working with Honeywell. We integrated our solution into their flight control system. And in the autumn, the first tests will take place at the airport,” adds Luboš Lněnička. Next year they would like to test the delivery of a parcel to a building right in the centre of Brno. “But that is still open, because we have to request exemptions from the Civil Aviation Authority and resolve other obstacles with legislation,” he notes.

A significant success of 3L Robotics was the presentation of the project to the ESA BIC programme committee of the European Space Agency, which subsequently decided to support this innovative initiative. With this decision, Drone Helipad has been accepted into the prestigious European Space Agency's business incubator, which opens up new opportunities for funding and further development as well as international collaboration.

Within a few years, drones should be roaming around the campus in Vlněná Street in Brno | Autor: archives pf 3L Robotics

“The 3L Robotics project shows the possibilities offered by the combination of space technology and drones. We are happy to support this project in our incubator ESA BIC and help it to develop further,” says Michal Kuneš, Programme Manager ESA BIC. “Working with ESA BIC will allow us to gain important knowledge and resources that will be crucial for the successful development of our project.” adds Luboš Lněnička.

According to him, it is only a matter of time before Czech legislation adapts to the modernisation of logistics and takes the possibility of transporting goods by drones into account. “At the moment, one of the biggest problems preventing a change in legislation is the issue of the safety of drones. In particular, making sure they are certified for safe flight over the city. But manufacturers are already doing everything they can to have these advanced certifications. And the Civil Aviation Authority could be quite sure that the technology is so safe that it cannot harm anyone,” adds Luboš Lněnička.

Three-pound packages for distances of tens of kilometres

According to him, even the fear of financial demands is not out of place. Since fully autonomous systems are still the music of the future, the drones in their project are semi-autonomous. “That means they can make the flight on their own. They will only use the services of an operator to hand over the package. In this case, the operator will really only supervise the delivery, so he/she can supervise up to six drones at a time,” says Luboš Lněnička. 3L Robotics is based on projects that are already working in the world. Drones are already delivering packages not only in the United States, but also in Australia and Ireland. 3L Robotics also based the sizing of the shipments on foreign standards. “At the moment, the helipad can accept a package weighing up to three kilograms and measuring 40x40x40 cm. However, we can increase the weight operatively if necessary,” says Luboš Lněnička.

It will not even be necessary to move logistics centres and warehouses closer to cities, because although the 3L Robotics project envisages that drones will fly up to a distance of approximately twenty kilometres, according to Luboš Lněnička, today's technology already manages distances of two hundred kilometres.

A helipad will be built on Building I, which is unprecedented in the Czech Republic | Autor: archives pf 3L Robotics

Michal Král, the project's business developer, points out that they are preparing a solution for a building that will stand for tens, maybe even hundreds of years. “As far as the limitations in the legislation are concerned, we are talking about a horizon of five, maximum ten years. However, together with CTPark, we are trying to look to the future and be prepared for it. We are helping to build the infrastructure that is necessary before drones can fly like this,” he concludes, adding that they plan to offer the solution to delivery companies, which would control the systems themselves through their operators.



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