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Drone postal deliveries could mean the mailman’s days are numbered in Singapore

The mailman’s days may be numbered, judging by this trial conducted by SingPost, Singapore’s national post service. It used a drone to send a letter and a package containing a t-shirt to its destination over two kilometers away, a mission that took just five minutes. It is the first commercial drone test completed in the country, but SingPost doesn’t expect to have drones making regular deliveries for at least another five years.

SingPost worked with Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) labs to build the drone, using the Pixhawk Steadidrone Platform. The four winged drone holds the package in the center on the top, rather than underneath, and the recipient can authenticate and accept delivery using a mobile app to open the box.

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The recipient can also choose a location to pick up the package, for example in a nearby park, backyard, or at the office. In the trial, SingPost managed to fly the drone over to the Singapore island of Pulau Ubin, showing the potential benefits for remote villages in Singapore that are unable to receive one-day deliveries.

Once the drone becomes part of the postal service, the traditional mailman won’t be out of a job through. Instead, SingPost will use the system to redeploy delivery staff to other areas, enhancing the speed of the entire operation. The company works in 22 countries through its freight shipping business, but only plans to use drones in Singapore. SingPost is working on improving security and efficiency of the operation, before moving forward with any full deployment plans.

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Once the security has been taken care of, SingPost still needs to gain approval from the Singapore government to fly commercial drones. It may be set a limit for how many drones it can have in the air at one time, or given specific flight routes to avoid other air traffic.

SingPost is not the only drone delivery project undergoing testing, Amazon Prime Air is currently being tested in the United States and United Kingdom, and Swiss Post is testing a drone service for delivery to remote areas across Europe.