Mercedes Teams Vans and Drones for Package Delivery Tests

Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz unit has completed a three-week pilot program that used drones to fly packages from a logistic center to vans, which then completed delivery to customers.

About 100 deliveries were made in Zurich during the test period in September and October, using two drones and two specially equipped Mercedes Vito vans. Additional tests are planned for next year.

Daimler partnered on the project with California drone-maker Matternet and Swiss online retailer siroop.ch. The drones, which can carry packages weighing as much as 4 lbs, landed on the roof of the vans parked at one of four drop-off points within an 11-mile radius from the logistics center.

About 50 individual customers placed same-day “airmail” orders with Siroop. Mercedes says the drones helped cut delivery times, but the company provided no details.

The carmaker, which describes the pilot program as the largest drone delivery test to date, says all its expectations were met in terms of technical feasibility and execution. Mercedes also is evaluating other on-board systems, such as digital sorting equipment, that the company says could cut costs in half for the final delivery leg.

Amazon.com and several other retailers also are testing drone deliveries.