Ford isn’t the only automaker to envision a future of vehicles and drones working together to deliver packages to a customer’s doorstep. Mercedes-Benz has been testing out a delivery system involving drones and specially equipped Vito vans in Zurich, Switzerland.
In the small pilot program launched in September, Mercedes delivered 50 packages from Swiss retailer Siroop to customers over the course of 10 days. Drones carried the packages from a warehouse to a Mercedes van with an integrated landing platform on the roof.
Once the drones safety landed, the vans drove to a customer’s home to complete the delivery. No safety incidents were recorded among the two drones in operation, and Mercedes was able to achieve delivery times of less than two hours.
“The aim [of the pilot program] was to test the technology and the concept in real-world conditions and find out where optimisation was required,” said Stefan Maurer, head of Future Transportation for Mercedes-Benz Vans. “We also wanted to know how people would react to this new form of transportation.”
Earlier this year, Ford outlined a very different vision for drone deliveries. Instead of the drone completing the first leg of the journey and the vehicle finishing off the delivery process, Ford had the opposite idea in mind. Once the vehicle has driven to a destination, deployable drones will fly to your top-floor apartment to pick up and drop off packages.
Land Rover debuted a special Discovery concept with a landing pad for drones. This vehicle anticipates the future of rescue operations, where drones can give personnel a better view of avalanches, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.
Mercedes will continue its research into drones and vehicles. “We are convinced that the project will evolve rapidly. We see great potential for our solution and intend to expand it to include further areas of application,” Maurer said.