The Finnish postal service has begun tests with drones to deliver online purchases.
During the four-day test which started on Wednesday (September 2), the drones will be transporting parcels between mainland Helsinki and Suomenlinna, an island fortress some five kilometers from the city center.
According to Posti Group, it is the first company in Europe to experiment with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for mail delivery in an urban area, with a flight path that is partially obstructed.
During the tests, parcels that weigh no more than three kilograms will be flown to the island by the drone, while letters and other parcels will be delivered the usual way by boat.
Jukka Rosenberg, Senior Vice President of parcel and logistics services at Posti, said the company was testing ways to make online shopping quicker and better for both the sender and recipient.
“This is part of the testing new technologies in our parcel delivery and post deliveries and this could be an opportunity which we are now testing,” he said following a press viewing on Tuesday (September 1).
The very first drone delivery went off without a glitch, even though it landed away from the designated landing zone.
Tero Heinonen from Sharper Shape, that is responsible for the technical aspects and operation of the drone, said safety was a priority and that the pilot had chosen a different landing spot because of the windy conditions.
“Safety is very important for us and the human pilot is always in charge of the flight and on this occasion it seems that the pilot made a decision to land further away from the crowd which had gathered here just as a safety precaution,” he said.
The parcel was then handed to the Minister of Transport and Communications, Anne Berner.
The test comes after her department drafted a program to promote intelligent automation.
According to Posti, Finland is at the forefront of using new technologies for transportation with legislation and public authorities strongly encouraging work in the field of automated traffic.
Heinonen said there was great interest in drone technology and said there were many potential uses.
“It seems that drones are one of the new technology areas which really ignite people’s imagination, so we get probably twenty requests per week for different applications that we ever could not have imagined. So I expect that while the technology further matures we will see many companies doing different kinds of applications starting from precision agriculture, forestry inventory, the deliveries of course, power-line inspections, counting traffic,” he said.
The announcement by Amazon last year of a potential drone-based delivery service has excited consumers, but a number of major obstacles remain before drone delivery services become the norm, namely weight limits, distance limits, and weather restrictions.