Switzerland begins postal drone trials
Tue 7 Jul 2015
Switzerland’s postal service has begun practical trials of its drone-based postal delivery service, the organisation announced in a post today. The project is a collaboration between Swiss Post, Swiss World Cargo and California-based drone startup Matternet, which is supplying the lightweight airborne carriers.
Swiss Post emphasises that the practical trials which begin this month will not lead to a commercial service in less than five years, and additionally that drones are not expected to predominate as a new delivery method in Switzerland: ‘The possible areas of application offered by drone technology are very diverse, ranging from delivery to peripheral areas to the express delivery of goods,’
The use of ‘Express delivery’ suggests that by default the drone service is being trialled as a potential premium delivery option, and presumably drone delivery will attract the highest possible tariffs.
The drone in question has a modified design in comparison to the standard and rather Mac-like Matternet template seen in recent news items, with the protective hub removed from each of the four rotor assemblies, each of which sits on arms extending out from an ovoid centre which houses the item to be delivered:
The release hints at the possible use of the Matternet drones in emergency situations
‘This could, for example, involve bringing supplies to an area that has been cut off from the outside world following a storm. Another realistic possibility is the urgent transport of consignments with the highest priority, such as laboratory tests. Which specific uses will prevail depends on how quickly the regulatory requirements are clarified and technical obstacles dismantled,’
The Matternet ONE drone being trialled can transport cargoes of up to 1 kilogram in excess of 10 kilometres (about 6.5 miles) without need for a recharge – presumably including the return trip, though the release does not state this. The drone will deliver its loads over secure flight paths defined by Matternet’s own cloud software.
Amazon is also far advanced in its own tests of drone delivery, but similar projects in all countries are likely to be delayed, perhaps for some years, while national regulatory frameworks are established for commercial use of drones.
Google is also very far into research on its own disaster-zone/postal drone, named Project Wing, whilst Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba began its own practical drone delivery trials in February of this year.
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