Newspapers worldwide have been decimated to near extinction by various disruptive technologies over the past decade, but a Finnish company is preparing to give local dailies a lift by assuring prompt delivery of papers to subscribers on secluded lake islands south of the city of Tampere.
Lentola Logistics is preparing a trial program to deliver newspapers by drone to residents of Saarikylät, an area covering seven villages on different islands in one of Finland’s countless lakes. Lentola Logistics CEO Markus Hohenthal plans to use the UAVs to fly the dailies to readers eager to get their news the same day it’s published, rather than wait up to several days for papers to be distributed by car or mail services.
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Hohenthal will conduct the trial over a three-month period next year, using Lentola Logistics’ tail-sitting vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) drone to deliver a few newspapers per flight – or as many as its 3.5 kg. internal payload can hold.
The service will be limited to a 20-kilometer zone, which – based on his UAV’s 80 km/h flight speed and the minute needed for descent to drop cargo – should enable missions of under half an hour each. Hohenthal figures that should allow each drone to delivery about 100 newspapers each day – a service subscribers have said they’ve be willing to pay more for to be able to read their news before its ancient history.
Should the drone trial prove effective, mail may be added to newspaper payloads as a timelier and cleaner way of making regular deliveries to island residents.
“We are trying out a new way of distributing to rural areas instead of by car,” Hohenthal told the Yle news site. “This is more cost-effective, faster and more environmentally friendly than the current way… To our knowledge, this has not been done anywhere else in the world.”
Even though Hohenthal will be launching the newspaper delivery trial in March when the worst of Finland’s severely cold and dark winter has passed, Lentola Logistics drones will be navigating glacial temperatures and strong winds that would fell most UAVs in mid-flight.
“Fortunately for us, it is easier to apply an efficient anti-icing system to an aircraft which has two propellers than to an aircraft which has eight,” the Lentola Logistics website says, adding its drones also use systems patented in the US and European Union that enable thrust vector control during flight. “Also, when the wind is too heavy for most unmanned vtol aircraft, our tailsitter can still fly thanks to certain novel structure solutions. It took six years and hundreds of flight hours to get there.”
Final cost of the drone service will be determined based on several factors, including the number of newspaper subscribers who sign up for the same-day delivery option they previously said they’d be keen to receive. Awaiting that, Lentola Logistics will operate the trial using a $64,000 grant from the Media Industry Research Foundation of Finland.
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If all goes well, the aerial activity could eventually be expanded to retail purchases, feasibly allowing Lentola Logistics – and Saarikylät’s island residents – to get flying before Wing decides to extend its Finnish services to the region.