Mercedes-Benz, drone systems developer Matternet and online marketplace siroop have started a pilot project in Zurich to test a drone-based system for on-demand delivery of e-commerce goods. The pilot project, which started with first trials on September 25, represents a significant milestone for autonomous aerial systems: it is the first time that extensive beyond-line-of sight drone operations are taking place in a major urban area to test a fully-automated e-commerce drone network. The development of the overall system uses an iterative approach and is based on early testing and continuous optimization.
During the course of the pilot project, customers will be able 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 two kilograms.
The operation has been authorized by the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) following the JARUS-SORA methodology. 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 FLARM sense and avoid system used by helicopter operators and other users of the lower part of the airspace.
The Matternet M2 quadcopters used in the pilot can carry packages of up to two kilograms over distances of up to 20 kilometers. In recent months, the integrated system has been continuously refined and tested extensively in preparation for operation in an urban environment.