Drones could play a key future role in the delivery of parcels and packages to isolated locations according to Volker Mornhinweg, global head of Mercedes-Benz Vans.
He was speaking at the launch of Vision Van, a concept Sprinter-size electric light commercial with a pair of drones mounted on its roof and compact wheeled robots in its cargo bay which will take goods straight to the customer's door.
“Our vans will become mother ships, with drones and robots swarming out,” he predicts. Each Vision Van drone can carry 2kg and operate within a radius of just over six miles from its roof-top launch pad.
Fitted with a 75kW drive package and piloted with a joystick rather than a steering wheel, Vision Van offers a claimed range between battery recharges of almost 170 miles. It features an automated loading system which also ensures that the correct package is automatically dispensed as the van arrives at each delivery point .
Mercedes intends to launch an electric van in 2018 as a follow-on from the Vito E-Cell. It will be interesting to see how many of the aforementioned features it includes.
Turning to more conventionally-engineered Mercedes models, Sprinters grossing at a higher weight of 5.5 tonnes are being launched with a payload capacity of up to 3.15 tonnes in van guise. At 3.5 tonnes Sprinter's un-laden weight is being cut by up to 12kg thanks to the availability of glass-reinforced-plastic rear springs as an option instead of steel springs; something the old Freight Rover company offered on the Sherpa some 30 years ago.
Moving down the weight scale, 2017 will witness the arrival of an optional six-speed dual-clutch automated transmission in diesel Citans. It will be deployed in diesel Renault Kangoos too; both vehicles employ the same platform.
Connectivity was one of the ongoing and inescapable themes of Hanover. Mercedes-Benz Vans will launch Mercedes PRO across Europe during the first half of next year, a web-based service which will enable fleet managers to do everything from dispatch route details to their vans to analyse the behaviour of their drivers on the highway so that poor performance at the wheel can be addressed.