Problems with Lab Deliveries Down Drone Service
For nearly a year, it flew 3,000 flights successfully. Swiss Post, a drone service that serviced three Swiss cities by ferrying lab samples between hospitals, proved to be more efficient and faster than ground service⏤until a January 25th crash into Lake Zurich put things on hold until April.
About five months later, a second crash in May 2019 led Swiss Post to suspend the service indefinitely.
A recently released interim report published by the Swiss Safety Investigation Board provides some detail on what happened—and a reminder that for all the delivery drone hype, the designers need to solve basic issues before it can be flown again, according to an article in spectrum.ieee.com.
Manufactured by a California company called Matternet, the Swiss Post drone has a parachute that allows it to float back to earth if it loses power, as well as loud whistles that alert anyone below. The first crash of the Swiss Post drone flight landed as planned, by parachute into Lake Zurich. However, the second crashed hard after the cord holding the parachute detached and the drone plunged into a wooded area about 50 yards from playing children.
Concern over drone delivery safety will continue until companies correct flaws and governments regulate drone services so that people aren’t at risk.
Swiss Post says it will continue to use drones for logistics, since they are already providing uniquely valuable services.
Your Order May Be Late
Meanwhile, at the University of California at Berkeley, the “KiwiBot,” one of more than 100 robots that deliver food in the city, suddenly burst into flames, according to a story in technologyreview.com. The manufacturer blamed human error, saying someone had inserted a defective battery that had caused thermal runaway (the same issue that made Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 phones catch fire in 2016). It promises that new software will monitor the batteries inside its bots, to avoid a repeat.
So students took to the “Overheard at UC Berkeley” Facebook page to pay homage to the dearly beloved grub bringer, calling the robot a “hero” and a “legend.” A video of the smoldering bot had nearly 100 comments an hour after it was uploaded. Some students called for a moment of silence, others went as far as creating a candlelit memorial.