This summer, one of Switzerland's biggest logistics companies is trying its hand at drone delivery. The drone company Matternet announced this week that it will be partnering with Swiss Post and its parent company Swiss WorldCargo for a drone delivery pilot project this summer, serving as a last mile delivery service attached to Swiss Post's larger infrastructure. It's the first major test of Matternet's drone technology in a commercial setting, and a crucial milestone for the company. "The primary aim of this pilot project is a proof of concept to clarify the legal framework, consider local conditions, and explore the technical and business capabilities of the drones," Matternet wrote in a statement. If the system performs well, Matternet will use that success to try to convince Swiss Post and similar companies to try to deploy the system at scale.
The program will test out a number of Matternet's ONE drones, which the company says can carry packages as heavy as 44 pounds on a single battery charge. The drones are designed to follow preprogrammed routes to avoid collision, but many of the subsequent logistical challenges of local delivery are expected to be worked out in testing. "We are extremely excited to bring Matternet ONE to Switzerland, one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world," said Matternet CEO Andreas Raptopoulos, "and discover how this new transportation paradigm will bring tremendous value to our partners, their customers, and the country at large."
As Matternet looks to prove its technology in Switzerland, similar tests are already underway in China and the United States. In February, Alibaba conducted a three-day trial for its own drone delivery system in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, delivering packages up to 12 ounces in weight. In March, Amazon got permission from the FAA to proceed with its own drone delivery trials on American soil. It's still unclear when any of the systems will be available to consumers, or what kind of range and weight limits consumers can expect after launch. Still, given the current pace of testing, it seems likely that we'll find out soon.