A partnership between Spanish carmaker SEAT and logistics company Grupo Sesé is making delivery drones part of the production line by enabling key components to be delivered by drone.

From today, delivery drones will transport steering wheels and airbags from Sesé’s logistics centre is Abrera, Spain, to SEAT assembly lines in Martorell – around 2km away.

This will see the transportation time cut from 90 minutes by truck to just 15 minutes, enabling parts to be delivered to the production line using a just-in-time model, and so improving flexibility of manufacturing at the facility. This will also reduce CO2 emissions associated with the deliveries.

The project, which is in a pilot phase, will see multiple delivery drone flights to the SEAT factory each day, with supervision from the Spanish Aviation Safety and Security Agency (AESA).

SEAT delivery drones form part of smart factory ambitions

The delivery drones bring trialled at the SEAT factory in Martorell are part of a wider move to adopt industry 4.0 technologies in a bid to make the factory smarter.

With increased options available within the industrial internet of things, companies have the ability to improve productivity and reactivity within manufacturing, while reducing emissions.

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SEAT is keen to explore the smart factor options available, with the carmaker already using smart picking and autonomous navigation systems within its factor, as well and using artificial intelligence to monitor its facilities and supply chain in real-time.

The introduction of delivery drones is, however, a more unusual move, and showcases how the technology may play a role within industrial settings.

“Today’s flight is the first step in transforming the supply chain in the automotive industry. Delivery using drones is going to revolutionise logistics, as for example in the case of SEAT it will reduce delivery time by 80%,” said Dr Christian Vollmer, vice-president for production and logistics at SEAT.

“With this innovation we are boosting industry 4.0 and we will become more efficient, agile and competitive, as well as much more sustainable.”

Read more: Amazon delivery drone plans “clear proof that this technology is gaining momentum”