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Last mile drone delivery soon?

MENLO PARK, CA: Matternet, founded to provide humanitarian and remote last-mile delivery using drone technology, has joined with Swiss Post and Swiss WorldCargo (SWC) to test drone deployment in Switzerland.

The move follows similar proof-of-concept announcements by Google, Deutsche Post/DHL and Amazon Prime Air.

Earlier this month the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued an Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) airworthiness certificate to Amazon Logistics, Inc. to test outdoor drone operations at heights of 400 feet or less. The exemption is for two years.

Swiss and SWC plan to test a number of Matternet ONE drones (below) designed for autonomous transportation via a cloud-based routing system of a 1kg. package over 20 kilometers. Dieter Bambauer, Head of PostLogistics at Swiss Post commented: "With drone technology, we are testing a possible means of transportation of the future already today. Swiss Post aims to always be in tune with customer needs."

Matternet ONEAndreas Raptopoulos, founder and CEO of Matternet added: "We are extremely excited to bring Matternet ONE (right) to Switzerland, one of the most technologically-advanced countries in the world, and discover how this new transportation paradigm will bring tremendous value to our partners, their customers and the country at large."

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) says within a decade of commercial UAS integration into America's airspace system, the nascent industry will generate US$82 billion annually and provide more than 100,000 new high-paying jobs.

AUVSI, which represents 600 companies, notes the proposed FAA rulemaking (NPRM) for UAS operations "is a good first step in an evolutionary process that brings us closer to realizing the many societal and economic benefits of UAS technology".

The organization is urging the FAA to base its final ruling on a risk-based, "technology-neutral approach" to ensure regulations are based on the risk profile of a particular UAS operation instead of solely regulating the platform being flown. "This philosophy reflects a global trend that has been proven in nations with growing commercial UAS industries," it argues.

Instead of putting forward new rules for individual UAS platforms, AUVSI wants the FAA to establish a regulatory framework able to promote UAS innovation by providing flexible standards for responsibility, reliability, security and compliance. "Without this framework, the FAA risks stunting this emerging industry at the cost of over $27 million dollars each day rulemaking is delayed," the association adds.

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