Swiss Post, Switzerland’s equivalent to the United States Postal Service, has confirmed it is testing a delivery service that uses drones.
A spokesman for the national mail carrier confirmed a report in local media to Agence France Presse, detailing a partnership with US drone maker Matternet and the freight division of Swiss International Air Lines.
The tests will involve mail delivery to regional sorting centers and are expected to be conducted over the summer. Both the extent of the trials and carrying capacity of the drones is not known.
Matternet’s current flagship product, the ONE, is relatively small compared to the needs of a mail carrier. Its unique architecture makes it light and strong enough to transport 1 kilogram over 20 kilometers on a single battery charge, which while handy for some applications, like video photography, might not be so useful for transporting heavy bags of letters over long distances.
What could be more interesting to the Swiss is Matternet’s autonomous flight systems. The software on the ONE allows the drone to adapt to weather, terrain and airspace and thus allowing it to fly autonomously beyond line of sight, without the need for a human pilot.
For Switzerland this may be particularly important because Swiss towns and villages can be tough to reach in winter. Getting the mail through despite snow, ice or avalanche has obvious benefits.
Another key benefit would be the lack of human involvement. Swiss Post, like its peers in the United States and England is bleeding money as it tries to meet service obligations and revenue targets. Drone based delivery might help it overcome these financial challenges.
Swiss Post joins Amazon, DHL and Google in testing the waters.