There you are standing cranky and coffee-less in downtown Zurich, just wishing that a hot cup of joe would drop from the sky. Well, there’s not quite an app for that, but there could be soon. The world’s first drone-delivered bag of coffee touched down in Zurich in late September 2017.
The delivery was part of a test phase by the ominously named Matternet (think Skynet but with more splendid mountain peaks) to bring everyday goods to the people of Switzerland, all without pilots. After flying through Zurich’s usually drone-free airspace and touching down on a Mercedes-Benz van, onlookers were offered a freshly made brew to mark this historic occasion.
The drone can skim through airspace for up to 20 kilometres (10–12 miles) and can carry cargo up to two kilogrammes (4.4 pounds). It reads the info provided on its package, plots its course and then heads off, moving at a maximum speed of 70km/h (or 43 mph). So next-hour delivery could well be coming to you sooner, rather than later.
Coffee isn’t Matternet’s first drone delivery project. Since March 2017, the company has had authorisation to fly drones between Swiss hospitals while carrying blood and other medical equipment. The project, working with SwissPost, started out in the city of Lugano.
Partnering with Mercedez-Benz and Swiss startup Siroop, Matternet plans to mobilise its flying fleet of drones as a ‘mobile mailbox’, bringing goods on demand to wherever they are needed.
The project isn’t without its problems, however. The drone’s stats may sound impressive, but at the moment, the carrying capacity and battery life is nothing to write home about. And the tell-tale whine of a drone flying through the air could well put many off.
In either case, this delivery, and the many others to follow, are the first steps towards an automated future – one where drones skimming across Swiss rooftops is a common sight.
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