Swiss Postal Service, Air Cargo Carrier Begin Drone Testing

 - July 8, 2015, 11:43 AM
The Matternet One quadcopter, built by a California company, is shown cradling a Swiss Post parcel. (Photo: Swiss Post)

Switzerland’s mail service Swiss Post, cargo carrier Swiss WorldCargo and drone manufacturer Matternet started testing a small quadcopter for commercial use this month. The tests will focus on using the drone “in exceptional cases or [for] the transport of special items,” the companies said.

In a joint announcement on July 7, the companies said their aim is to play a leading role in developing and identifying the technical possibilities and cost effectiveness of using drones for their own purposes at an early stage. They do not foresee using drones widely in the next five years.

Swiss Post delivers letters, newspapers and other materials and also participates in the logistics market with parcel delivery and express services. Swiss WorldCargo is the air freight division of Swiss International Airlines. Matternet, based in Menlo Park, Calif., is providing its Matternet One quadcopter, which is capable of transporting parcels weighing up to 1 kg (2.2 pounds) over distances of 10 km (6.2 miles) on a single battery charge.

The Matternet One flies autonomously, following flight paths designed using Matternet cloud software.

“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 companies said. “Until the time of their realistic commercial use in around five years, there are various requirements which 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.”