LUGANO, Switzerland: March 31, 2017. The Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA) has approved the use of drones by Swiss Post to carry laboratory samples between two hospitals in Lugano.
The green lights follows 70 test flights in March by Swiss Post, the Ticino EOC hospital group and drone manufacturer Matternet between two of EOC’s hospitals in Lugano, as an alternative to a 12-minute road trip.
Following a review of the drone’s safety components and defining the legal conditions for flying it, the FOCA has approved Swiss Post and Matternet to conduct further tests prior to beginning a daily drone service next year.
With a landing pad that transmits an infrared signal at takeoff and landing, hospital staff will be able to load the drone and launch it using a smartphone app for the two-minute flight between the hospitals in the Canton of Ticino.
The Matternet logistics ‘quadrocopter’ has a two-kilo payload, a maximum range of 20 kilometers and flies at an average speed of 36 kilometers per hour.
Claiming to be one of the first companies in the world to test drones in a commercial context, Swiss Post said it is particularly interested in their use for last mile delivery to remote areas, or places cut off by a storm. The company added it expects drones to “complement traditional parcel delivery sensibly, but they will not replace it”.
In addition to Swiss Post, Matternet has partnered with Mercedes-Benz Vans, Swiss WorldCargo, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and Médecins Sans Frontières.