Switzerland trials postal deliveries by drone

Swiss Post says widespread use of drones could take at least five years and focus would be delivering special items.

    The Swiss postal service said initial tests would run until the end of July [AFP]
    The Swiss postal service said initial tests would run until the end of July [AFP]

    The Swiss postal service has started testing the use of drones to make deliveries, a move it says will help in emergencies and allow items to reach isolated areas. 

    Governments tightening rules on use of drones

    Footage released by Swiss Post and its partners on Tuesday showed an unmanned drone, about the size of commercial devices used by hobbyists, in flight.

    The company says it will be exploring the cost effectiveness of drone use, but does not expect widespread use until at least five years from now.

    "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 said in a statement, adding the technology could also be used in emergencies and for delivery of medicines.

    "The use of drones in emergency situations is conceivable. This could, for example, involve bringing supplies to an area that has been cut off from the outside world following a storm."

    Q&A: Privacy implications for aerial drones

    The drone, which was designed by the US-based company Matternet, boasts a light construction, a payload of up to 1 kilogram, and can fly 10km on a single charge.

    Flight paths are modelled using GPS waypoints.

    The company said it was "not realistic" that drones could replace conventional delivery methods.

    "This is unthinkable in our already overloaded, small airspace when more than 500,000 postal parcels are currently delivered per day, and over a million per day during the Christmas season," the statement read.

    Regulatory obstacles

    Other limitations besides regulatory framework, would be the limited battery life current drone models offer, the company said. 

    Amazon unveils drone delivery

    In 2013, online retailer Amazon announced its intention to make deliveries by drone with "four to five years", but the idea ran in to regulatory obstacles when the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published draft rules on drone use.

    The FAA said drone use for commercial purposes would require special pilot certificates and the devices would not be allowed near crowded areas.

    Activists have also expressed concern about the possible implications of drone use on privacy .

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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