Mercedes Benz completes largest ever test of drone delivery system

Mercedes-Benz has tested its drone delivery system by bringing 100 lightweight packages to 100 customers after first flying them to vans in Zurich.

The test, which Mercedes said was the most extensive yet conducted, took place over 11 days in conjunction with Swiss e-commerce company Siroop and coffee roaster Black & Blaze.

When customers ordered coffee, Black & Blaze flew the goods by drone about 10km to the roof of one of four Mercedes vans parked around Zurich. The van, which Mercedes describes as a "mobile mailbox", then delivered the coffee while the drones returned to base.

The test involved coffee but the company says construction sites needing parts or tools could be customers in the future.

Thomas Würdig, head of the internet of things at Daimler, says workers will be able to order a part on their smartphone and have it delivered in the same way as the coffee was. A countdown clock on users’ phones keeps them informed of delivery progress in real time.  

This system has the advantages of giving drones a safe landing space while cutting the energy and road space needed for end-to-end road delivery.

"We have the incredible opportunity to do the most comprehensive test of drone technology in an urban environment to date," said Stefan Maurer, head of future transportation at Mercedes-Benz Vans. "To validate our concept at this early stage with customers and project partners will help push forward the development of the technology."

The pilot program is part of the €500m Advance programme that Mercedes announced last year to speed delivery times for online orders.

Other companies have carried out smaller-scale trials in which packages were taken directly to the customer. Last December, Amazon delivered its Fire television-streaming device and a bag of popcorn to a customer in the UK, and convenience store chain 7-Eleven flew a parcel of chicken sandwiches and doughnuts to a private residence in Reno, Nevada.

Image: The system in action (Mercedes Benz)

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