Indian Transport & Logistics

DJI drone makes historic delivery on Mount Everest

Three oxygen bottles and 1.5kg of other supplies were flown from Everest Base Camp to Camp 1; on the return trip trash was carried back down

DJI drone makes historic delivery on Mount Everest
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Shenzhen, China-based DJI teamed up with Nepalese drone service company Airlift, video production company 8KRAW and certified mountain guide Mingma Gyalje Sherpa to fly the world's first successful delivery drone trials on Mount Everest (Mount Qomolangma).

Completed in April, the historic milestone in aviation highlights the capabilities of DJI FlyCart 30, which can carry 15kg payloads even in extreme altitude and environmental conditions, according to a press release from DJI. “During the tests, three oxygen bottles and 1.5kg of other supplies were flown from Everest Base Camp to Camp 1 (5,300-6,000m ASL). On the return trip trash was carried back down.”

Christina Zhang, Senior Corporate Strategy Director, DJI says: "From the end of April, our team embarked on a groundbreaking endeavour to help make cleanup efforts on Everest safer and more efficient. We are thrilled to share that our DJI FlyCart 30 was up to the task. The ability to safely transport equipment, supplies and waste by drone has the potential to revolutionise Everest mountaineering logistics, facilitate trash cleanup efforts, and improve safety for all involved."

The Everest Base Camp and Camp 1 are separated by the Khumbu Icefall, one of the most perilous stages of the ascent, the release added. While helicopters can theoretically make the same journey, they are rarely used due to the significant dangers and costs.

“Before undertaking delivery flights, DJI engineers considered the extreme environmental challenges of Everest, including temperatures ranging between -15° to 5°C, wind speeds up to 15m/s, and high altitudes over 6,000m ASL. Rigorous tests of DJI FlyCart 30 were then conducted, including unloaded hover, wind resistance, low-temperature, and weight capacity tests with successively heavier payloads.”

Traditionally, the responsibility of transporting supplies and clearing trash on Everest were on the shoulders of local Sherpa guides who may need to cross the icefall over 30 times in a season to transport supplies such as oxygen bottles, gas canisters, tents, food, and ropes.

"We need to spend six-eight hours each day walking through this icefall," says Mingma Gyalje Sherpa. "Last year I lost three Sherpas. If we're not lucky, if our time is not right, we lose our life there."

An unmodified drone can carry 15kg between camps in 12 minutes for a round trip, day or night. DJI’s delivery drones aim to ease the burden on Sherpas, who repeatedly risk their lives navigating the treacherous Khumbu Icefall, the release added.

Operation cleanup
Each climber is estimated to leave eight kg of trash behind on Everest, and despite cleanup efforts, tonnes of waste remains on its slopes. “If drone technology can ease this burden of cleanup crews, DJI is eager to help. DJI FlyCart 30 can efficiently transport garbage and human waste down the mountain, reducing the volume of trips Sherpas must make across the Khumbu Icefall.”

The deployment of delivery drones in high-altitude regions not only promises to enhance safety and efficiency in these challenging environments but also highlights the importance of environmental conservation and sustainable practices within the mountaineering industry, the release added.

Launched globally in January 2024, DJI FlyCart 30 has also been deployed to help plant saplings in steep hillside environments and line pulling in Japan, to transform solar PV installation in Mexico, to aid mountain fire rescue efforts in Norway, and improve scientific research operations in Antarctica.

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