The first company to test autonomous drones in logistics is
For some, drones making autonomous deliveries are far off, for others it’s the present. Meet the Swiss Post, a Switzerland company founded in 1849 pioneering the use of drones for logistic commercial applications. They are the first company in the world to test autonomous drones for commercial applications.
In 2014, Swiss Post set up the “Development & Innovation” unit to promote innovation. This unit is in charge of developing business ideas and implements them with the latest management tools. One of those ideas, of course, is utilizing Drones for logistics, and not long ago Swiss Post in collaboration with the Tinco EOC hospital group and drone manufacturer Matternet launched a project aimed at utilizing Drones for this purpose.
The project began in March 2017 with the mission of improving the transfer of laboratory samples between two EOC hospitals in the southern Switzerland city of Lugano. The samples are currently transported by road. By having those transported using drones, the hypothesis is the process will be faster and more efficient. The Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA) has been involved in every aspect of the initial phases where so far more than 70 autonomous flights have been conducted. Testing will continue until April 4th after which an evaluation will be taking place.
Regular usage of drones between these two hospitals is expected to occur as soon as next year (2018). At that time, trained hospital staff will be loading the drones with the samples and sending them off using a smartphone application. Once they arrive at their destination following a set flight path, the package will be obtained by another trained hospital staff.
The drones being used for this purpose are the quadcopters made by the American manufacturer Matternet. The M2 V7 model used in the pilot measures 80 cm in diameter specializing in the transportation of light goods that weigh up to a maximum of 2 kg. The range on this drone is a maximum 12.2 miles flying at a maximum of 22 mph. For safety reasons, duplicates of both the autopilot and other important sensors such as the altimeter, accelerometer and gyrometer are installed. In the event of a failure, the drone will release a parachute to land softly. For connectivity it uses GSM Cellular networks and is powered by lithium ion batteries. Currently it is not allowed to fly in the rain, but the company expects rain capability to be included in June 2017.