A drone delivery service of Switzerland operated by the Swiss Post is ready to resume on January 27th, after a suspension was imposed on the program in August 2019 following the crash of two drones, considering one where the drone’s parachute system broke down.
Crash in 2019
In August 2019, the drone delivery program by the Swiss Post was suspended indefinitely following one of its drones crashed just 50 yards away from a group of children. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports (via IEEE Spectrum) that the drone weighing 10-kg (22-pound) has the capacity to carry up to 2-kg of cargo, experienced an issue at the time of a flight in Zurich in May. Although the drone was rigged with an emergency parachute, it cut one of its connecting cords during the emergency landing, which resulted in an uncontrolled crash. Luckily, nobody was injured.
In that time (the US company that used to handle and operate the drone fleet) Swiss Post and Matternet hired an “independent board of experienced aviation specialists” to review the companies’ safety procedures and operations. After the review, they were asked to provide suggestions for improvements.
Changes recommended by the board
“Swiss Post and Matternet maintain high safety standards and a high level of safety awareness. The processes that were examined were at a high standard even before the incidents,” as per Michel Guillaume, one of the board members of the review. “There are no reasons why flight operations should not be resumed.”
According to the review, the board is recommending four changes to the operations of Swiss Post and Matternet:
- Matternet should apply the latest safety recommendations set by the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) and the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board (STSB) after the crashes in the past.
- They have to establish an independent oversight body that will take care of safety-related processes. The establishment has to be done before the end of March 2020.
- Swiss Post gave more control over the actual drone operations (which are currently run by Matternet); including the ability to audit Matternet’s drone operations.
- Improved safety protocols for Matternet, including the hiring of a dedicated head of safety.
Both of the companies are already working on the application of these suggestions: Matternet has already applied the safety recommendations and appointed ahead of safety, and the review board is going to advise the companies about their drone policies in the future. Both companies have also spent the time since the accident in May 2019 running over 2,000 test flights in Switzerland on improved drones that will not fail.
The Swiss delivery program has been in action in Switzerland since 2017, with Swiss Post alleging that the drones are capable of delivering lab samples such as blood tests between hospital facilities and labs up to 45 minutes faster than traditional transportation.
Hello, I’m Anna Yeo. If you like my news coverage, please drop a good word in my inbox. I’m journalist by profession and have been part of many major reporting across the globe. I like to write crisp and factual news. I have completed my masters degree in journalism. Feel free to contact me at [email protected]