France’s postal service has begun using drones to make parcel deliveries to a remote Alpine village.
La Poste’s subsidiary, DPD, says flying packages by remote control is more reliable, quicker and safer than driving a van up narrow mountain roads in winter when they are often icy or blocked by snow.
The delivery by drone, which flies at around 30km/h, takes eight minutes for a round trip, compared with 30 minutes for a vehicle.
Launched during a normal postal delivery round from a special launch-and-landing platform that emerges from the side of a vehicle, the drone is guided to a “secure terminal” near the village where it releases the package to be collected by the customer using a code.
DPD began researching the possibility of using drones to make deliveries in 2014 and has been honing the technology ever since.
La Poste was given permission by France’s civil aviation authority to begin using the drones, which have six electric rotors that can be charged using solar panels, and a inbuilt GPS system, for deliveries in the Isère region of south-east France. They will carry small parcels between Fontanil-Cornillon to Mont-Saint-Martin, which is 760m above sea level and north of Grenoble in the Chartreuse mountains.
“There are many benefits to drone delivery in the mountains as compared to delivery by van. For the driver, in addition to the time saving, there is reduced risk on roads that are dangerous and sometimes blocked especially in winter,” DPD said.
“For the customer, it guarantees that they will receive their parcel even if the road is impassable. Finally, as the drone is electric-powered, it does not emit any CO2 into this protected natural environment,” it added.
DPD says the drone has numerous safety features, including an “autonomous parachute”, an anti-collision system, camera and flight recorder, in case anything should go wrong. However, it can only carry parcels weighing under 2kg and measuring less than 31cm x 15cm x10cm.
La Poste has been using drones to make deliveries in the Var region of southern France, but this is the first time the technology has been used in the mountains.
“We’re heading for the winter period and in the Alps there are regular snowfalls that can stop traditional deliveries to Mont-Saint-Martin,” Jean-Luc Defrance DPD director told Le Parisien.