Citizens of Switzerland may soon be receiving packages through the combined efforts of autonomous delivery drones and manned delivery vans.
In March, logistics company Matternet, in partnership with automotive corporation Daimler, received government approval to start testing their "Vans and Drones" delivery service in heavily populated portions of Switzerland. According to Matternet, It's something no other company has yet received approval for.
Yesterday marked the beginning of the service's first three-week trial. Taking place in the Swiss capital of Bern, the project's first delivery consisted of a small box of coffee ordered from e-commerce company Siroop (one of Matternet's other partners).
The system functions by deploying package-laden drones into the city, which use GPS signals to autonomously locate -- and land on the roof of -- specified delivery vans. To ensure the drone lands safely, the van's roofs will send out "infrared landing guidance beam(s)."
Although the driver still needs to pick up the package and deliver it himself, the service could save quite a bit of time. Lakes, trees and buildings present no obstacle to a drone, whereas a standard delivery vehicle must circumvent them on the ground.
As intriguing as this project is on paper, Matternet CEO Andreas Raptopoulos admits that widespread consumer acceptance will be critical to the success of the Vans and Drones project. He is eager to avoid what he calls the "Google Glass" experience.
However, Matternet isn't putting all of their focus on one project. With the creation of the Matternet Station (which is essentially a small landing pad for Matternet drones) the logistics company hopes to partner up with hospitals, labs and clinics throughout Switzerland to deliver lab samples.
Indeed, the company has already made a few such deliveries successfully, shuttling blood and other important medical samples from testing facilities to their respective hospitals with ease.