Mercedes-Benz Vans, U.S. drone systems developer Matternet, and Swiss online marketplace Siroop have launched a pilot project in Zurich to test a van and drone-based system for on-demand delivery of e-commerce goods.
The pilot project, which started on Sept. 25, is just one of many drone-delivery systems being rolled out by retailers in recent months.
During the course of the three-week 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 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds).
The drones are loaded directly at the merchant and fly to one of two Mercedes-Benz Vito vans equipped with a precision landing technology.
The van stops at one of four “rendezvous points,” within the city of Zurich, where the van driver takes possession of the product and delivers it to the customer, while the drone returns to the retailer.
Delivery will be made on the same day.
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 goal of the project is to significantly improve the time and service level associated with on-demand delivery and add value for retailers and consumers. 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 into the Swiss airspace system using the same sense and avoid system as 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.
The Matternet M2 drones used in the pilot can carry packages of up to 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) over distances of up to 20 kilometers (12.4 miles).
The goal of the project is to synchronize drone fleets with the vans so that they will not have to travel to a rendezvous point. Instead, they will be supplied by a drone along their regular routes at suitable stopping points. This allows urgent shipments to be integrated into existing delivery runs, making delivery faster.
The Vans and Drones project was first presented by Mercedes-Benz Vans and Matternet at the "Van Innovation Campus" event, held in September 2016.