Australia Post is testing the use of parcel delivery drones in a “closed field trial” with the backing of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. If the initial two-week trial is successful, the company hopes to trial the service with consumers by the end of the year.
In a statement, the postal authority said the closed-field trial is "an important next step in testing the new technology which will potentially deliver small parcels safely and securely to
customers’ homes, allowing for faster transportation of time critical items like medication.”
Australia Post managing director and Group CEO, Ahmed Fahour said: “We’re excited to be the first major parcels and logistics company in Australia to test Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) technology for commercial delivery applications. We will put this innovative technology through its paces over the coming weeks and months to understand what it can deliver, how far it can travel, and ultimately, how our customers could receive a parcel.”
Valuable air service for rural areas
A consumer trial would use the drones to deliver parcels to 50 locations twice a week in an outer metropolitan location, said Ben Franzi, Australia Post general manager e-commerce platforms and marketplaces.
The technology could be especially valuable for rural customers whose homes are far away from their mailboxes. The drones would be operated by delivery drivers who would launch the drone from where they are parked on a road.
A number of Australia Post's big retail customers were already interested in participating in a consumer trial, Mr Fahour said.
The delivery drones, which have been developed by Melbourne company ARI Labs, are fitted out with a high-definition camera, as well as a parachute, alarm and warning lights which can be activated as safety precautions if needed.
They also send encrypted data back to a ground station so engineers can safely monitor flight activity in real time. ARI Labs hopes to be able to automate the monitoring in future.
In a related development, Google has been granted a patent by the U.S. Patent Office (USPO) for a drone system that could be used to deliver medical equipment, such as defibrillators.
Google and its Alphabet wing have been submitting several patents for “alternative” delivery methods. On 9 February, the USPO awarded the internet giant a patent for a self-driving parcel delivery truck.
Nol van Fenema