The Swiss postal service is thinking about using drones to provide services to hard to reach areas. For this, tests with drones are beginning in Switzerland today.
“We want to reach every corner of Switzerland” states Dieter Bambauer, head of PostLogistics Switzerland. “With this project we test the use of existing drone technology.”
Commercial use is planned earliest in five years, since a full list of technical and legal questions will have to be answered first.
One of the technical issues is the limited battery life of the drones. The current prototype can deliver a package of 1kg (~2lbs) over 10km (~6 miles)
Drones made in Silicon Valley
The drone was constructed by the US based firm Matternet. The company was in the limelight for helping to bring medicine and equipment to out of reach clinis in the Himalaya mountains.
The expedited transport of medical samples is another use case. The “flying mailmen” could bring medicine to mountainous regions, too.
According to the manufacturer, the drone is constructed to be very light.
The drone is controlled by an iphone app. Given the coordinates, the drone will use the matternet navigation system to find its destination. On its way, it will heed obstacles, terrain and weather conditions.
The use in adverse weather conditions is limited, as Mr. Raptopoulus states.
The tests under different conditons is one of the goals of the project.
The so called “Project Phoenix” also includes Swiss WorldCargi, the Air cargo division of the Swiss airlines.
No substitute for mailmen
Replacing the mailmen is not a realistic goal says Mr. Bambauer “With over 500,000 Packages delivered daily, this would be an impossibility in our small airspace.”