Swiss Post and Matternet will start transporting lab samples by drone between hospitals in Switzerland again, months after putting the project on hold.
A panel of aviation experts were asked to review safety processes following two incidents in which a drone made an emergency landing and was recovered from the bottom of Lake Zurich, while another crashed close to a group of children that were playing. Nobody was injured in these incidents.
In a report made public this year, the reviewers said Swiss Post and Matternet demonstrated “a high level of safety and safety awareness”.
The partners will now resume operations at the Ticino EOC hospital group in Lugano, where Swiss Post says the use of drones can cut delivery times by up to 45 minutes, compared to ground transportation.
The panel made a series of recommendations that include the creation of an independent oversight body before the end of March.
Swiss Post should also take “more control” over operations and Matternet “further strengthen” safety processes, the reviewers said.
Matternet has now hired a head of safety, who is set to start in February.
Professor Michel Guillaume, head of the Centre for Aviation at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences and a member of the expert board, said:
“We certify that Swiss Post and Matternet maintain high safety standards and a high level of safety awareness. The processes that were examined were at a high standard even before the incidents. There are no reasons why flight operations should not be resumed.”
THE LARGER PICTURE
Matternet has been working with Swiss Post since 2017. Last year, the company announced that it would also partner with UPS to provide drone delivery services to US healthcare systems, starting with WakeMed Health & Hospitals in North Carolina.
Earlier this month, Matternet said its drones had transported nearly 8,000 lab samples at WakeMed. At the same time, the manufacturer revealed that it secured strategic investment from McKesson Ventures, with the venture capital fund joining a list of big-hitter investors that include Boeing and Mercedes-Benz.
But Matternet is not the only player in this space. In December, German startup Wingcopter, maker of eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) drones, landed “seven-digit” financing from Corecam Capital Partners to accelerate its push into new markets.
However, as opposed to Matternet, Wingcopter does not focus solely on healthcare.