Amazon is not the only company trialling drones for e-commerce deliveries. Now Switzerland's postal service has begun its own tests on aerial devices, another sign that the future of international parcel services man well be airborne.
Swiss Post said that although it is currently in a trial phase with its drones, it doesn't expect them to enter into delivery service within the next five years. The tests are being conducted in partnership with Swiss International Air Lines' cargo division and American drone manufacturer Matternet, and are especially aimed at seeing if it's possible to deliver to the many remote villages in Switzerland that are often difficult and expensive to reach by road.
The battery-powered craft will be able to carry up to 1 kilogram and travel more than 10 kilometres from the dispatch location, Swiss Post said when announcing the tests.
"The possible areas of application offered by drone technology are very diverse, ranging from delivery to peripheral areas to the express delivery of goods," the company said. "Until the time of realistic commercial use in around five years, there are various requirements which need to be clarified."
Those requirements are largely centred on government regulations concerning the use of flying vehicles. Regulators would have to first determine the acceptable flight level and path for deliveries, and impose restrictions on air corridors that are used by commercial and military aeroplanes.
The type of craft being used in the Swiss Post tests is called Matternet ONE, which uses cloud computing software to make its journey to and from fulfilment houses and other centres. It's designed to fly at only 50 to 100 metres high and can make adjustments for bad weather and other issues (such as buildings, hilly areas and restricted airspace) along the way.
Matternet says that most of the goods being ordered and delivered are less than 1 kilogram in weight, so drones are the most efficient - and environmentally friendly - way of sending them.
"We want to see our technology used everywhere and by everyone, revolutionising logistics in city centres and access to goods in the most remote places on Earth," the company says.