Swiss Post is embarking on a test campaign to explore the integration of the Matternet One vertical take-off and landing unmanned air vehicle into its delivery service.
Swiss Post says that the use of UAVs to deliver goods is unlikely to take over from conventional delivery methods, but the service envisions that in special circumstances – such when infrastructure has been damaged by bad weather, or for those living in remote alpine areas – UAVs could offer a viable and efficient transport method within five to ten years.
Earlier this year the service teamed with Matternet and Swiss WorldCargo – the air freight division of Swiss International Air Lines – to explore requirements surrounding the use of this technology. Testing is due to begin in July.
“The possible areas of application offered by drone technology are very diverse, ranging from delivery to peripheral areas to the express delivery of goods,” Swiss Post says. “Until the time of their realistic commercial use in around five years, there are various requirements that need to be clarified. This includes the regulatory framework. In addition, there are technical restrictions with the drones of today, such as limited battery life.”
It adds that it is conceivable today that UAVs could be used in emergencies, such as delivering supplies following extreme weather, or to transport laboratory samples.
“Which specific uses will prevail depends on how quickly the regulatory requirements are clarified and technical obstacles dismantled,” Swiss Post says.
Matternet One UAVs are designed to carry small payloads of up to 1kg, and several will be used during these tests. They can travel around 10km on one battery charge, and fly autonomously following defined, secure flight paths drawn up by cloud software developed by Matternet, Swiss Post says.