That horrible experience of finding you’re fresh out of coffee on a groggy morning is one most people know all too well. But a new drone-based delivery system trialed in Switzerland shows how that scenario may soon be a thing of the past.
A partnership between the Swiss eCommerce startup Siroop, Mercedes Benz, and the American logistics company Matternet recently announced that it has conducted its first-ever trial of drone delivery in Zurich. During the test flight, a bag of coffee grounds was flown several miles via drone to the roof of a Mercedes-Benz van.
The workflow may seem complicated in its mechanics, but the concept is actually pretty simple. First, the customer orders a household item they need using Siroop. The product is packaged and then sent via autonomous drone to an emissions-free Mercedes-Benz van between five and ten miles away. After drone drops the parcel off on the van’s roof (a convenient landing pad) the van’s driver removes it and drives the final one mile for a human-to-human hand delivery.
For all the complicated tech that must be utilized for this process to work, Matternet head of global and business development Oliver Evans claimed that the least reliable variable in this system has nothing to do with the drones.
“The logistics challenges arrive in that last mile, of delivery when vehicles get caught in city traffic,” he said in the promotional video. “This is what causes delays.”
Earlier this year, Matternet was granted permission to use its drones over densely populated area. In this way, the Swiss government proved it is more lax than that of the U.S., where Federal Aviation Administration regulations concerning drones are fairly strict. Here, drones are prohibited from being flown outside the line of site of its operators, at any point outside daylight hours, or over people — perhaps the most inconvenient requirement of them all. It’s because of these stipulations that Amazon Prime Air had to trial its first drone delivery in England last year despite being an American company.
While it may seem a bit unnecessary to have to go through all this trouble to receive an item you could just get at the nearest grocery, there were larger implications to this trial.
Coffee is just the beginning, serving as a potential roadmap for future drone delivery of things like blood samples, as Matternet has previously tested with Swiss hospitals. It’s expected this practice will go into effect on a larger scale next year.
If you liked this article, check out this video of a drone that hunts land mines.