Oliver’s Drone Mission

Swiss WorldCargo intends testing drone technology in cooperation with Swiss Postal Services and U.S. drone manufacturer Matternet. Today’s announcement comes as surprise since Oliver Evans, helmsman of the airline’s cargo division spoke of a period of 3 to 4 years for the use of drones operated on behalf of Swiss WorldCargo when asked by CargoForwarder Global last summer in Zurich. If all goes well it will be the first carrier to deploy these sort of vehicles. It’s just another innovative Swiss approach to improve the supply chain.

Matternet drone  /  company courtesy
Matternet drone / company courtesy

Will the ambitious drone project be Oliver’s last technical legacy after 12 years of leading the carrier’s cargo division and before exiting the airline at the end of September this year? It seems so. Why else would he have pushed this highly ambitious issue forward with great energy during the last couple of months, almost unnoticed by the world outside of Swiss?

First stage is fired
This assumption is based on facts. While only 9 months ago he spoke of a time frame of about 3 to 4 years needed to utilize drones for small shipments to cover the last mile within the supply chain his enterprise now launches the first phase of the project. According to Swiss WorldCargo’s announcement sent out this afternoon CET (21 April) the airline together with Swiss Post and technology company Matternet of California have joined forces to test the deployment of drones.
Tests will begin very soon
The three enterprises are currently researching the practical uses that drone technology could offer, and the business case to support such a development. The possibilities range from internal logistics to the delivery of consignments over the last mile. As to the timing, the trio states that the first tests are scheduled to take place in summer 2015 in Switzerland. Besides exploring the technical and business capabilities of the drones a major aim of this pilot project is a Proof of Concept to clarify the legal framework. An issue that is currently causing a big stir in the U.S. There, Amazon is in constant dispute with the authorities for getting the official go ahead to test their own flying equipment (CargoForwarder Global reported).

Ranging up to 20 kilometers
In the case of Swiss WorldCargo and Swiss Post they have agreed to test a selection of Matternet ONE drones. This because these specific vehicles have been exclusively designed for the transportation of small packages, and will be deployed with partners for the first time in this Proof of Concept. Matternet ONE’s centrally-located payload makes it exceptionally easy to load and unload and its unique architecture makes it light and strong enough to transport 1 kilogram over up to 20 kilometers on a single battery charge, reads the press release. Matternet ONE is capable of autonomous operation, following secure routes generated by Matternet’s proprietary Cloud software.
Dieter Bambauer, Head of PostLogistics, Swiss Post: states “With drone technology, we are testing a possible means of transportation of the future already today. Swiss Post aims to always be in tune with customer needs.”

Efficient and cost-effective
Oliver Evans, Chief Cargo Officer, Swiss International Air Lines says: “As a specialist in the transportation of high-value and care-intensive shipments, Swiss WorldCargo is keen to explore any new technology which promises to increase reach, speed or reliability while at the same time reducing costs or environmental impact.”
Oliver goes on to say: “Likewise we are keen to explore new types of collaboration with partners in the supply chain, from technology partners like Matternet to service partners like Swiss Post.”   Andreas Raptopoulos, CEO Matternet: “We are extremely excited to bring Matternet ONE to Switzerland, one of the most technologically-advanced countries in the world, and discover how this new transportation paradigm will bring tremendous value to our partners, their customers and the country at large.”
So the day doesn’t seem to be very far any more when small and light packages are flown around the Alps in commercial missions on behalf of Swiss WorldCargo and Swiss Post. This however, is unlikely to happen before 30 September this year, Oliver’s last day in office at Swiss WorldCargo.

Heiner Siegmund

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