As part of a pilot project, customers of siroop – a joint venture between Swisscom and Coop – select products ordered online can be delivered by drone. The products must be no heavier than two kilograms and suitable for transport by drone.
The retailer will load the drone directly after an order is placed, and the drone will then fly to one of two Mercedes Benz Vitos used in the project. The vehicles have a platform integrated onto their roof to allow the drone to land safely. The vans then travel to one of four defined meeting points in the Zurich metropolitan area, where the product is handed over to the parcel delivery service for delivery to the end customer. In the meantime, the drone returns to the retailer.
The project is seen as a milestone for autonomous flight systems as it is the first time that extensive drone deployments take place autonomously in an urban environment with vans as landing platforms. The objective is to test a fully automated e-commerce drone system, which could shorten delivery service times as deliveries could be made regardless of the traffic situation.
Matternet’s M2 drones are being used in the pilot project. They have a maximum payload of two kilograms and a range of around 20 kilometres.
“We believe that drone-based logistics networks will fundamentally change the way we access products on a daily basis,” Andreas Raptopoulous, founder and CEO of Matternet, said in a statement. “Switzerland is a pioneer in this technological revolution. For the first time, such a system is being used in a European metropolis, and for the first time in the world, a network is created out of drones and vans.
After the three-week pilot project, the next step will be to coordinate the vans and drones with intelligent dynamic routing technology and an automated order management system. This would mean that the vans would no longer have to wait at predefined stopping points for the drones to arrive but could instead receive the ordered products from the drones at any suitable stopping point along their regular routes.