DJI and Airlift: First Successful Drone Delivery Flights on Mount Everest

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In collaboration with Airlift, 8KRAW video producer, and Nepali mountain guide Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, DJI conducted the first successful drone delivery trials on Mount Everest (Mount Qomolangma). These historic tests, completed in April, demonstrate the impressive capabilities of the DJI FlyCart 30 drone, which can transport loads of up to 15 kg in the extreme altitude and environmental conditions of Mount Everest. During the tests, the drone delivered three oxygen bottles and 1.5 kg of other supplies from the Everest base camp to camp one (5300-6000 meters above sea level). On the return trip, the drone carried back waste.

Historic Achievement

For the first time, drones successfully transported equipment and waste between the Everest base camp and camp one. These camps are separated by the Khumbu Glacier, one of the most dangerous stages of the climb. Although helicopters could theoretically perform a similar flight, they are rarely used due to significant risks and costs.

Before the delivery flights, DJI engineers meticulously analyzed the extreme environmental conditions of Everest, including temperatures ranging from -15° to 5°C, wind speeds up to 15 m/s, and high altitudes above 6000 meters. Rigorous testing of the DJI FlyCart 30 included hover tests, wind resistance, low-temperature tests, and tests with heavier loads, all of which were successful.

Enhancing Safety on the Mountain

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Traditionally, the responsibility for transporting supplies and removing waste on Everest falls to local Sherpa guides, who may cross the glacier up to 30 times per season, carrying supplies such as oxygen bottles, gas canisters, tents, food, and ropes.

“We have to spend 6-8 hours every day crossing this glacier,” said Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, a mountain guide from Imagine Nepal. “Last year, I lost three Sherpas. If we are unlucky, if our timing is wrong, we lose lives there.”

Climbing the Khumbu Glacier typically occurs at night when temperatures are lowest, and the ice is most stable. The drone, without modifications, can transport 15 kg between camps in a 12-minute round trip, both day and night. DJI’s delivery drones aim to relieve Sherpas, who repeatedly risk their lives navigating the treacherous Khumbu Glacier.

Cleaning Up Mount Everest

Each climber leaves an average of 8 kg of waste on Everest, and despite cleanup efforts, tons of debris remain on the mountain’s slopes. If drone technology can ease the burden on cleanup teams, DJI is ready to help. The DJI FlyCart 30 can efficiently transport trash and human waste down the mountain, reducing the number of trips Sherpas must make across the Khumbu Glacier.

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The Future of Drone Deliveries

The climbing season on Everest is limited to April and May, with further drone activities and tests restricted for the rest of the year due to adverse weather conditions. However, following the recent successful trials, the Nepalese government has signed an agreement with a local drone service provider to establish drone delivery operations on the southern slope of Everest from May 22.

The introduction of delivery drones in high-altitude regions promises not only to enhance safety and efficiency in these challenging conditions but also underscores the importance of environmental protection and sustainable practices in the climbing industry.

Photo credit: DJI

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Jakub Markiewicz
Jakub Markiewiczhttps://jotem.in
Hi, I am the author of the Jotem.in blog and series of thematic portals since 2013. I have nearly 15 years of experience in working in the media, marketing, public relations and IT. If you are interested in cooperation, you would like me to write about something or test a product - let me know.
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