A Switzerland drone delivery service run by the Swiss Post is set to resume on January 27th, following a suspension of the program in August 2019 after two drone crashes, including one where the drone’s parachute malfunctioned.
In that time, Swiss Post and Matternet — the US company that operates the drone fleet — set up an “independent board of experienced aviation specialists” to review the companies’ safety procedures and operations and provide suggestions for improvements.
“Swiss Post and Matternet maintain high safety standards and a high level of safety awareness. The processes that were examined were at a high standard even before the incidents,” according to Michel Guillaume, one of the members of the review board. “There are no reasons why flight operations should not be resumed.”
As part of the review, the board is recommending that Swiss Post and Matternet make four changes to their operations:
- Matternet should implement the new safety recommendations set by the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) and the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board (STSB) following the previous crashes
- Establishment of an independent oversight body for safety-related processes before the end of March 2020
- Swiss Post given more control over the actual drone operations (which are currently run by Matternet), including the ability to audit Matternet’s drone operations
- Improved safety protocols for Matternet, including the hiring of a dedicated head of safety
The two companies are already working on implementing these suggestions: Matternet has already implemented the safety recommendations and hired a head of safety, and the review board will continue to advise the companies on their drone policies in the future. The two companies have also spent time since the accident in May 2019 running over 2,000 test flights in Switzerland on improved drones that should be less prone to failure.
The Swiss delivery program has been running in Switzerland since 2017, with Swiss Post claiming that the drones allow for lab samples such as blood tests to be flown between hospital facilities and labs up to 45 minutes faster than traditional transportation.
Correction: The drone accident in May was a parachute malfunction; this article original stated that the parachute failed to deploy.