The German automaker took notice of the idea of having drone-based deliveries accompany parcel service vans and prototyped it on the Vision Van concept, and it’s now moving forward with a real-life trial of the current Vito van.
The commercial operation is part of a project by Swiss online retailer Siroop, with the drones produced by American maker Matternet – with the location being Zurich. Thanks to a promotion people can order certain items and have the drone deliver the purchase for part of the journey. But instead of the original idea – have the drone take purchases for the final leg of the trip to the customer’s home – Siroop loads the drone at the warehouse, then letting it fly to a pre-determined location in the city where the aircraft lands on top of the waiting van. Then the delivery person takes charge – while the drone flies back to Siroop for another order.
The trial goes for seven hours each day, Monday through Friday from September 25 until October 13 – as long as the weather is fine and the pilot project includes two Mercedes Vito vans. It’s “the first time that extensive beyond-line-of sight drone operations with the use of vans as landing platforms are taking place in a major urban area to test a fully-automated e-commerce drone network,” according to the automaker. The Matternet M2 drones have a range of 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) with up to 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) of load – they even feature a parachute in case of malfunction. “The pilot project in collaboration with Matternet and Siroop affords us the possibility to test our concept in real-life on-demand deliveries,” adds Stefan Maurer, Head of Future Transportation at Mercedes-Benz Vans.