Matternet, a drone-delivery company based in Silicon Valley’s Menlo Park California, has recently joined forces with Daimler, as well as the government of Switzerland, to bring rolling distribution hubs for aerial package delivery. While the initial focus of the initiative was on the speedy delivery of time-sensitive lifesaving medical supplies, a shift to testing the consumer market has taken hold. Over 100 successful drone drop-offs to strategically placed vans in Zurich have shipped everyday items like ground coffee and cellphones. Mercedes Benz’s Vito is the first production vehicle in the world to be specifically designed as a mobile receiving station and land site for electric powered drones operating on a fully automated network.
Since 2015, Matternet and Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, have been exploring the use of vans as rolling distribution hubs for aerial package delivery. In March of 2017, Matternet was granted authorization to operate its drones over densely populated areas of Switzerland, an approval which was a world’s first. Not only have more than 100 drop-offs been successful, they were completed with a perfect safety record and more deliveries are planned for 2018. (Check out the full process on YouTube: How it Works)
Matternet’s investment in Switzerland has shown us that drone delivery is not only possible, it is happening right now. While the relative land area of Switzerland is small, its terrain poses numerous challenges, specifically the mountainous stretches. By introducing the Vito variable to the drone-delivery equation, questions of distance and local control are addressed. As more tests are conducted and the safety record remains impeccable, this model would be something that Canadian regulators would do well to consider when crafting current legislation. This multi-lateral ongoing project will be closely scrutinized as 2018 progresses.
By: Jacob Hrycak