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Have Delivery Drones Gone Postal?

As of yesterday, Singapore Post became the first postal service company in the world to officially use a drone to deliver mail. The test run began from the coast of Singapore to Pulau Ubin, a small sparsely populated island just to the northeast. In total, the trip took five minutes, covering a distance of 2km over water.

The drone was equipped with a prototype app which provides security along with a method of verification upon delivery. For this trial run, just a letter and T-shirt were delivered, given the 500g capacity limit of the current model being used.

Although a rather modest flight/trial, there is a lot of emphasis on what it means for the industry:

“There is immense potential in UAV technology for last-mile mail and ecommerce delivery. As SingPost transforms into an eCommerce logistics enabler, we will continue to collaborate with industry leaders and chart new frontiers. Not only do we want to enable or accelerate eCommerce, we hope to contribute towards building Singapore into a Smart Nation, where technology improves the quality of lives. We seek continuous exploration to break new ground, innovate and harness technology to bring end-to-end solutions that matter to our customers,” said Dr Bernard Leong, Head of Digital Services, in a SingPost press release yesterday.

The postal drone was developed in a joint venture with Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), which operates under the Ministry of Communications and Information. Jacqueline Poh, Managing Director with the IDA, had this to say:

“The successful conclusion of this trial shows how SingPost is thinking out of the box and its willingness to expand its traditional mail delivery model in innovative ways. Although it will be a while before it is viable for drone mail delivery to take off in Singapore, taking into consideration commercial and safety factors; this first step by SingPost and IDA demonstrates what Singapore is trying out with our Smart Nation vision – to have the various parts of our ecosystem collaborate, experiment with new ways of doing things, and in the process, literally aim for the sky with new technology.”

For nations that are continually pushing ahead with cutting-edge technology combined with fast, reliable internet connectivity, the potential is certainly there for more successful integration of drones for deliveries. They could also prove to be a huge advantage in Indonesia and the Philippines—countries comprised of literally thousands of islands. But seems perfectly suited more for delivering mail to rural outposts and less-developed island areas (vs. city centers).

There are, of course, plenty of downsides as well so it will be interesting to see how far they go with using drones more regularly. Obviously, in densely populated urban areas there are pedestrians, cars, power lines etc. to contend with. And how would many actually receive the delivery considering all of the people and businesses that operate in office towers and condos?

H/T: Channel News Asia