The Swiss government’s postal company Swiss Post will be testing an unmanned air vehicle to deliver packages of one kilogramme or less later this year in cooperation with Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) and US drone manufacturer Matternet.
SWISS has concluded that its shipments include many packages that are 2kg or 1kg and Swiss Post is seeing a shift in its industry from mail to packages, with the rise of Internet shopping. Matternet has developed an autonomous quadcopter able to deliver 1kg packages up to 20 kilometres away for a market its founder, Andreas Raptopoulos, claims is worth $420 billion. Raptopoulos claims that more than 75 per cent of freight is a 1kg package and 70 per cent of the cost of delivery is in the last mile. The $420 billion figure comes from Raptopoulos analysis that of the worldwide logistics market of $800 billion, the last mile is worth $560 billion and $420 billion of that is for packages of about 1kg.
Swiss International Airlines’ chief cargo officer and head of Swiss WorldCargo, Oliver Evans, announced the tripartite study at the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Cargo Network Services (CNS) conference in Orlando (US). Evans tells Air Cargo Week: “This is a technology that can be disrupting to our industry and can also be a great opportunity. We are engaged with regulators, with Swiss [Federal] Office of Civil Aviation, they are extremely supportive.”
According to Evans the undisclosed costs of the testing will be borne by all three organisations and described SWISS’ investment as being in, “airline seats and hotel rooms,” with the biggest being employees time.
In 2014, Matternet tested its technology in Bhutan with that country’s government and in Papua New Guinea with Medicines Sans Frontiers.