Soon, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will transport laboratory sam-ples between two hospitals in Switzerland. Initiator Swiss Post empha-sizes that a series of successful pioneering flights have paved the way for regular drone missions beginning next year.
Drones are increasingly becoming an integral part of the supply chain at their be-ginning or end. So seen in Singapore where in October of 2015, local SingPost conducted successfully a last-mile
mail and packet drone delivery trial in the north-ern part of the territory.
Wide range of drone applications
In the U.S., e-commerce giant Amazon is working on plans to utilize drones that may drop packages via parachute. However, there is no launch date and official okay for this kind of automated aerial service yet. Meanwhile, Google came up with similar plans, in which a package is dropped from the sky. So did delivery firm Flirtey that completed an automated drone trial in Reno, Nevada. In contrast to Amazon or Google, these flights were legal because Flirtey had a human supervising the oper-ations.
To round things up, in early 2016, DHL successfully carried out a three-month last-ing test of its third Parcelcopter generation. The trial run, part of a larger research and innovation project, was conducted in a remote part of the Alps in Bavaria to test automated shipment and delivery per drone. A total of 130 autonomous loading and offloading cycles were ultimately performed.
Swiss Post banks innovative transport solutions
Now, Swiss Post together with U.S. drone provider Matternet jumped on the band-wagon, completing a series of trials by flying laboratory samples between two hospi-tals in Lugano, Switzerland, the Ospedale Italiano and the Ospedale Civico. So far, the samples are transported by road, with drones making transport faster and more efficient in order to further enhance the provision of care to patients, explains Swiss Post. Meanwhile, Switzerland’s Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA) has given the project the green light.
The regular use of drones between the two hospitals is scheduled for 2018, once the strict requirements regarding safety, practicality and reliability have been met. Beginning then, trained hospital staff will be able to load the drone independently with a safety box (in which the lab samples are packaged) and launch the drone with a smartphone application. The drone will then fly autonomously along the pre-defined route to its destination, where the box will be received by another member of staff, reads Swiss Post’s release.
Swiss Post teamed up with U.S. manufacturer Matternet whose quadrocopters will conduct the physical flights between the hospitals in Lugano. The drone is compact at 80 cm in diameter (without rotor blades), specializes in the transport of light goods weighing up to two kilograms, has a maximum range of 20 kilometers and flies at an average speed of 10 metres per second (36 kilometers per hour).
As of 2018, people in Lugano will see the four rotors driven quadrocopters perma-nently plying the skies above the southern Swiss city. Much to the delight of former head of Swiss WorldCargo, Oliver Evans, who joined drone maker Matternet in No-vember 2015, acting as Head of Global Business Development at the Californian firm.