By Michael Moore
Residents in Switzerland could start receiving their daily post a little differently as the country's national mail service is to start delivery trials of unmanned drones from next month.
Swiss Post is working with Californian drone manufacturer Matternet on the tests, which will also involve Swiss WorldCargo, the air freight division of Swiss International Air Lines.
However, the companies claim that they are not anticipating a widespread roll-out within the next five years.
As revealed earlier this year, Swiss Post will use several Matternet ONE drones for its initial tests, which will also look at the viability of using the devices to deliver supplies to areas cut off or hit by emergencies, or to transport high-priority laboratory tests.
The company says that the Matternet ONE flying device is specially designed for transporting small deliveries and it is extremely simple to operate.
Capable of transporting loads of up to 1 kilogram over more than 10 kilometers with a single battery charge, the drone flies autonomously, following clearly defined, secure flight paths, which are drawn up by cloud software developed by Matternet.
However before the drones are able to launch to the public, there are still several hurdles to overcome, Swiss Post says, including the regulatory framework and poor battery life of many existing devices.
The tests mark out Swiss Post as the latest company to confirm it is looking into drone delivery.
The most notable proponent of the technology so far has been Amazon, which is also set to launch its Prime Air scheme within the next few years.
More details about the program were recently revealed in a series of patent applications which showed that the drones involved will be able to talk to each other to share information and update their routes in real time, determining if their flight paths and proposed landing areas are safe and free of obstacles (like people or dogs).
Using location data pulled from a user's smartphone, package delivery locations will be updated in real-time as customers move around, so your goods can come to you, depending on where you are when your shipment is ready.