Mercedes-Benz Vans, US drone systems developer Matternet and Swiss online marketplace Siroop are undertaking a pilot project in Zurich, Switzerland, to test a van and drone-based system for the on-demand delivery of e-commerce goods.
The three-week pilot project, which started on September 25, will enable customers to order selected products from online marketplace Siroop that are suitable for transport by a Matternet drone, such as consumer electronics and other e-commerce items weighing up to 2kg (4.4 lb). The delivery will then be made on the same day.
The drones are loaded directly at the merchant and fly to one of two Mercedes-Benz Vito vans equipped with precision landing technology on the roof. The van stops at one of four pre-defined points, where the van driver takes possession of the product and delivers it to the customer while the drone returns to the retailer.
The entire logistics chain from order receipt to delivery to the customer will be timed and compared against conventional delivery methods to gain insights into the efficiency of the solution.
The operation of the drones has been authorized by the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) following the Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) methodology developed by JARUS (Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems).
Safety is the guiding principle during the pilot, which will run for seven hours per day, five days a week in favorable weather conditions only. Matternet drones are integrated in the Swiss airspace system using the same sense and avoid system used by helicopter operators and other users of the lower part of the airspace; and are equipped with a parachute system that is automatically deployed in case of a malfunction.
Stefan Maurer, head of future transportation at Mercedes-Benz Vans, said, “The pilot project in collaboration with Matternet and Siroop affords us the possibility to test our concept in real-life on-demand deliveries.
“We want to gain valuable insights for this and further concepts enabled through van and drone technology. We have the great opportunity here to conduct the most extensive testing in an urban environment to date. Validating our concept together with customers and project partners in an early phase will greatly advance the development. We are demonstrating what a practical system comprising drones and vans may look like.”
Andreas Raptopoulos, founder and CEO of Matternet, said, “We believe that drone-enabled logistics networks will transform how we access goods every day we will be able to order something online, and like magic, receive it within minutes, for a fraction of the cost and energy expended today.
“Switzerland is at the forefront of this technological revolution this is the first time that a drone delivery network is operating in a major European city and the first time a van and drone network is operating anywhere in the world. We hope that this pilot will give us greater understanding of how the public perceives a drone-enabled solution for e-commerce today and pave the way toward extensive use of these systems.”
Peter Rohn, chief commercial officer, Siroop, said, “Speed, flexibility and efficiency are key factors for our business, online retailing. These are precisely the aspects where the pilot project with Mercedes-Benz Vans and Matternet comes in. It allows us to further optimize the connection between our retailers and customers, and we fulfil the wishes of our customers for fast and flexible delivery. We are creating real added value for both sides and as a result get the chance to acquire more customers and retailers for our platform.
“It is especially of interest to us to test the customer need for drone deliveries and find out more precisely what products and collections are particularly suited for drone deliveries. We also expect to get important information about the handling at the retailer and last but not least also with regard to the acceptance at our customers.”
October 3, 2017