Aga Town, Niigata Prefecture (Mayor: Kazuaki Kanda, hereafter Aga Town), Seino Holdings Co., Ltd. (Head Office: Ogaki City, Gifu Prefecture; President: Yoshitaka Taguchi; hereinafter referred to as “Seino HD”), Aeronext Inc. (headquartered in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; Keisuke Toji, CEO; hereinafter referred to as “Aeronext”), NEXT DELIVERY Inc. (Head office: Kosuge Village, Yamanashi Prefecture; Representative Director: Keisuke Toji; hereinafter referred to as NEXT DELIVERY), and KDDI SmartDrone Inc. (Headquarters: Minato-ku, Tokyo; President＆CEO Masafumi Hirono; hereinafter “KDDI SmartDrone”) conducted a drone delivery experiment (hereafter “the experiment”) from March 20, 2023 to March 24, 2023 in Aga-machi, Niigata Prefecture, to establish a new Smart Logistics*1 SkyHub*2 aimed at improving the efficiency of regional logistics.
In this demonstration, we collaborated with a medical clinic and a pharmacy, and delivered packages assuming prescription drugs from the pharmacy to the clinic where the patient had completed medical treatment and online medication guidance. Since last year’s demonstration experiment, the route has been newly expanded to cover a wider area, and we will continue to build a service that can be used by many residents in the town.
Specifically, this project is aimed at studying the societal implementation of SkyHub®, a new smart logistics system that combines drone delivery and land transportation, which is being developed and promoted by Seino HD and Aeronext. The project was conducted in collaboration with NEXT DELIVERY and KDDI SmartDrone.
Demonstration Experiment Overview
Background and Purpose
Aga Town, with a population of 10,032, is classified as a mountainous area and a special heavy snowfall area, with a rapidly declining population and aging population with fewer children. In addition, many villages are scattered in mountainous areas far from the town center, making it necessary to provide the elderly with efficient means of shopping for daily necessities and access to medical care other than by walking.
As for the medical environment in areas far from the town center, three town clinics have been established and the prefectural hospital and clinics collaborate to provide home-visit medical care. However, two of the clinics do not have a pharmacy attached, and patients must go to a pharmacy in the town center, more than 5 km away, to receive prescription drugs. Further, when visiting villages scattered over a wide area, the elderly are required to go to a pharmacy more than 20 km away to pick up medicines that their doctors or other health care providers have not brought with them, which places a heavy burden on the elderly.
This time, we conducted this demonstration and verified the results with a view to social implementation of drone logistics in mountainous areas and areas with exceptionally heavy snowfall. In addition, we surveyed rational and efficient use of the last mile delivery network, including a survey of the needs of the town’s residents, introduced shopping services and pharmaceutical delivery for residents, and conducted a demonstration for the effective use of drones in the town of Aga.
In three areas of Aga Town (Kase, Kamikawa, and Tsugawa areas), we used Karin Pharmacy as a temporary Drone Depot*3 and Kase Clinic and Kamikawa Clinic as temporary Drone Stands*4 to deliver daily necessities and food ordered by local residents using the app., assuming drone delivery that can transport goods without delay even in the event of a disaster.
The people in the district who received the products delivered by drone this time are looking forward to the implementation in the future, and there was a question such as “When will it start?” It was a proof that local residents have high expectations for the future.
This drone delivery demonstration uses AirTruck*5, a dedicated logistics drone developed by Aeronext. The aircraft was controlled by the SmartDrone Tools Flight Operation System developed by KDDI SmartDrone, which enables remote control and autonomous flight of the aircraft using mobile communications.
After this demonstration, we aim to establish a Drone Depot where each company’s cargo and other items will be consolidated and multiple Drone Stands, with the goal of establishing a new smart logistics service by 2023 to address regional issues such as depopulated areas, and to begin ground delivery and shopping service with future drone delivery envisioned.
*1 New Smart Logistics
A public-private initiative to find solutions to the issues commonly faced by the logistics industry, such as labor shortages, environmental and energy issues, and DX areas, while utilizing digital and technology to ensure the future sustainability of logistics, which is an indispensable infrastructure for people’s daily lives. The project aims to realize the last mile joint delivery, the best mix of land and air transportation, freight and passenger consolidation, automated technology, etc., through co-creation based on an open public platform (O.P.P.) that transcends the boundaries between the industry and the outside world.
A new smart logistics system jointly developed and deployed by Aeronext and Seiho HD that connects existing logistics with drone logistics and connects ground and air infrastructure to deliver goods anytime, anywhere.
Based on the SkyHub® system, the joint delivery service provides services such as joint delivery of packages from different logistics companies, shopping, delivery, food, medicine, etc. to Drone Stands® or private homes, based on the Drone Depot®.
The introduction of SkyHub® not only has the logistics benefits of promoting unmanned and inventory-free operations and improving last mile delivery efficiency, it also introduces a new logistics infrastructure, and from the aspect of logistics reform, it can be used to solve social issues in the region, such as labor shortages due to population decline and aging populations, transportation issues in specific depopulated areas, medical issues, disaster countermeasures, and measures for the vulnerable in logistics. In addition, it will contribute to addressing regional issues such as population decline, labor shortage due to aging and declining population, transportation problems in certain depopulated areas, medical problems, disaster measures, and measures for those who are vulnerable in logistics, as well as raising the level of satisfaction of residents and communities by improving convenience and quality of life for them.
*3 Drone Depot®
Warehouses and bases for the accumulation and delivery of goods at the connection points between existing land-based logistics and drone logistics, with a setup that enables drone delivery of goods.
*4 Drone Stand®
Facilities or locations for drone takeoffs and landings located at the origin and terminus of drone logistics.
*5 Dedicated Logistics Drone AirTruck
AirTruck, the first mass-produced logistics drone developed in Japan by Aeronext Corporation, a next-generation drone technology startup, in collaboration with ACSL, achieves stable flight with Aeronext’s proprietary 4D GRAVITY®*6 airframe structure design technology. The AirTruck is a dedicated logistics drone that goes “faster, farther, and is more stable” with enhanced for logistics, specialized for forward motion, and aerodynamic characteristics required for long-distance flight. The prototype has flown in demonstration tests in various regions of Japan and has the No. 1 flight record in Japan.
*6 Airframe structural design technology 4D GRAVITY®
Airframe structure design technology developed by Aeronext optimizes aerodynamic characteristics by equalizing motor speed regardless of attitude, condition, or movement during flight and controlling lift, drag, and fuselage center of gravity based on fuselage shape and structure to improve the basic performance of industrial drones, such as stability, efficiency, and mobility, and the transportation performance of drones dedicated to logistics. Aeronext has patented this technology and manages it as part of the 4D GRAVITY® patent portfolio. 4D GRAVITY® improves basic performance and opens up new markets and applications for industrial drones.
*7 SmartDrone Tools
KDDI SmartDrone Inc. provided service that combines the 4G LTE Package, a set of basic tools necessary for remote autonomous drone flight, with options that suit the user’s usage scenario. The 4G LTE Package offers a combination of three tools: an “operation management system” that enables remote control of drones and real-time sharing of images from anywhere in Japan, a cloud for managing filmed data, and mobile communications for unlimited data usage.
【About Aga Town, Niigata Prefecture】
Aga Town is located in the eastern part of Niigata Prefecture, about 35 minutes east of Niigata City, the prefectural capital, on the Ban-Etsu Expressway, and about 60 minutes on General Route 49 to reach the center of the town, which borders Fukushima Prefecture on the east side.
The Agano River and its tributary, the Tsunenami River, flow through the center of the town, and the terraces along its coastline form the center of this mountainous region. The center of the town is relatively flat, but the surrounding area is surrounded by steep mountainous terrain, with the Iide Mountains spreading out to the north and the Echigo Mountains running north-south in the northwest.
With an area of 952.89㎢, the town is the third largest in the prefecture. The average temperature is about 11°C to 12°C, but the daily temperature difference is not only large, but also the temperature difference throughout the year is as high as 30°C, making it a very warm and cold region. The seasons are thus clearly defined, and visitors can enjoy the seasonal changes in scenery.
* For more information：https://www.town.aga.niigata.jp/index.html
【About Seino Holdings Co., LTD.】
Seino Holdings strives to be a value-creating comprehensive logistics trading company and aims to “provide value that transcends time and space” to its customers. Seino embraces an overall strategy of the group is to embody “Open Public Platform Construction (OPP)” that provides better and optimal services to customers through connections both inside and outside the industry in an open-neutral relationship in order to build a platform that is easy for customers and other companies in the same industry to use. In the last mile area, we are actively promoting and expanding the construction of a last mile O.P.P. that solves social issues such as measures for vulnerable shopping and measures for lower income families, while responding to changes in lifestyle and structure.
* For more information: https://www.seino.co.jp/seino/shd/overall-condition/
【About Aeronext Inc.】
AERONEXT, an IP driven R & D technology startup for next-generation drones, is a company that designs the sky through technology to create a world where the sky becomes a social infrastructure, is economized, and solves social issues through drones. Our core technology is 4D GRAVITY®︎, a unique structural design technology that improves basic drone performance such as stability, efficiency, and mobility of industrial drones by optimizing the center of gravity of the aircraft. In order implement this 4D GRAVITY®︎ as standard equipment on industrial drones, we have constructed a strong patent portfolio and are promoting a partnership-based platform business for the 4D GRAVITY®︎ license globally.
AERONEXT has also founded a subsidiary to implement the SkyHub® smart logistics and pursue drone delivery.
*For more information: https://aeronext.com/company/
【About NEXT DELIVERY】
A subsidiary of AERONEXT, a company mainly engaged in drone delivery, established in Kosuge Village, Yamanashi Prefecture in 2021 with the vision of “becoming a country where affluence is spread to every corner of the earth through 4D LogisticsTM infrastructure that connects air, land, and time in the age of 100 years of life. The company is also involved in the development, manufacture, sale, rental, and maintenance of hardware and software related to drone delivery. We are also developing peripheral businesses such as development, manufacturing, sales, rental, and maintenance of hardware and software related to drone delivery. Starting with Kosuge Village in Yamanashi Prefecture, we are working to improve the efficiency and revitalization of regional logistics in places such as Kamishihoro Town in Hokkaido and Tsuruga City in Fukui Prefecture.
* For more information: https://nextdelivery.aeronext.co.jp/
【About KDDI SmartDrone】
KDDI SmartDrone builds services that enable safe remote and long-distance flights by controlling drones using mobile communications such as 4G LTE. KDDI SmartDrone is working to create new businesses with drones and provide agile services that meet customer needs in various fields such as inspection, logistics, surveillance, agriculture, and surveying.
*For more information：https://kddi.smartdrone.co.jp/
*Aeronext and the Aeronext logo, as well as “4D GRAVITY®” “SkyHub®“ “Drone Depot®” “Drone Stand®” are trademarks of Aeronext Inc.
*Other company names and product/service names mentioned in this press release are registered trademarks or trademarks of their respective owners.
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