The drone delivery collaboration between Swiss Post and Matternet has, for the most part, proven extremely successful. But after two crashes, the program has been suspended while experts review safety policies and Matternet reviews requested changes to their systems.
The Swiss Post and Matternet program demonstrates one of the best and most accessible uses for drone delivery – transporting hospital lab samples along a set route between one hospital and another. Matternet started testing with Swiss Post back in 2015: the company has since formed a partnership with UPS to work on commercial drone delivery in the U.S. and been instrumental in many drone delivery pilot programs around the world.
A recent Swiss post press release, however, indicates that after a second crash they will suspend the program. Spectrum IEEE reports that an earlier crash resulted in a drone landing in the middle of Lake Zurich – during that harmless failure, however, the drone safety mechanisms engaged exactly as planned. The most recent crash resulted in the failure of the drone parachute system: something that Matternet tells Spectrum has never happened before, but that has raised concern at Swiss Post.
Swiss Post says that the delivery program will be suspended until the safety issues are addressed, and that they will establish a board of safety experts to ensure that the agency is able to “align its risk and safety management with normal aviation standards.”
Swiss Post places great importance on safety in drone logistics. For this reason, we are now using this time for extensive testing of the processes and safety mechanisms. Swiss Post has decided to establish a board of experts. This board will scrutinize all processes related to risk and safety management. Swiss Post’s aim is to align its risk and safety management with normal aviation standards. The board of experts will consist of independent experts, the manufacturers, Swiss Post and customers. The first steps are already underway.
In addition, Swiss Post asked Matternet to make changes to their safety parachute system:
It is not acceptable to Swiss Post that the safety measures have not worked. Swiss Post expects the manufacturer of the drones to ensure that safety mechanisms such as the parachute work properly. As such, we have asked Matternet to implement various urgent measures:
- The parachute ropes are now reinforced with metal braiding.
- The parachute will be attached to the drone with two ropes rather than one.
- The shrill whistle, which alerts people near the drone when it is making an emergency landing, will be made louder.
By implementing these changes, Swiss Post is following the recommendations from the interim report produced by the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board (STSB).
In addition, Swiss Post has altered some of its operations standards to be more stringent than the aviation agency standard.