Australia Post to trial drone parcel delivery of online shopping

April 15, 2016

Australia Post has unveiled new technology that could one day come to the aid of posties who encounter locked gates or snarling dogs blocking their path.

The organisation put its new delivery drone through its paces at Dandenong South in Melbourne's south-east.

It envisaged the device would eventually revolutionise the way parcels are delivered, particularly in regional and rural areas.

Australia Post chief executive Ahmed Fahour said the drone was still in the very early stages of technology but he believed over the next five to 10 years there would be "an enormous amount of change".

"E-commerce and online shopping, it's all about customer convenience," he said.

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VIDEO: Australia Post trials small parcel deliveries by drone(ABC News)

"If you were shopping and wanted something really quickly, what's the best way when you've got traffic and a situation where you need it right now? You could potentially use it."

He said rural and regional customers currently bought online three times more per capita than metropolitan customers and delivery drivers could trial stopping at a regional property's front gate and then flying drones in closer to homesteads.

Australia Post stressed safety was its priority and its drone had a parachute, lights and sirens to warn people if they get too close.

It also has a video system to allow operators to monitor the landing environment for hazards.

The organisation would also require customers to specifically agree to receiving parcels by drones to avoid any privacy concerns.

'We need to get ahead of the curve'

Mr Fahour would not disclose how much the drone trials cost Australia Post but denied the move would replace delivery drivers.

"At the moment this is not about [being] cost effective, this is not a cheaper option," he said.

"It's not about ... replacement, this is about saying we need to get ahead of the curve and that's what innovation is about: getting ourselves ready for what the world will be, not what the world is today."

Trials in an enclosed, fenced-off field will continue for another two weeks and if successful, Australia Post will apply to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority for a trial of parcel deliveries to customers.

The organisation's head of eCommerce Ben Franzi said the trial would involve deliveries to 50 households twice a week to test the demand for such a service.

It would likely take place in a rural location and could begin at the end of this year.

A CASA spokesman said the authority would identify all relevant safety requirements to ensure there were no risks to people, property or aircraft.

He added CASA currently did not approve drone operations over populous areas, "so drones cannot currently deliver parcels down city or suburban streets".

CASA will review drone regulations later this year and the authority said it would work with the remotely piloted aircraft sector as drone technology developed and improved.



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