Sorry we missed you: Australia Post pondering blood deliveries by drone

The Australian postal service is looking at what Swiss Post is doing for accident and emergency deliveries.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
(Image: Swiss Post/Alessandro Della Bella)

For a company that is struggling with a decrease in its letter business, Australia Post is not shy about wanting to have a stab at any venture that could make it money.

Unlike the whacky blockchain voting proposal it put forward in 2016, the postal service's latest plan seems much more closer to the company's core business.

It's an idea of modern delivery -- for blood, by drones.

Speaking to Senate Estimates on Tuesday, Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate said the company had been working with Swiss Post.

"In some countries ... they are using drones to be able to carry blood to points of accident -- and Swiss Post are doing that," Holgate said.

"We are actually working with Swiss Post, and in fact in just a few weeks time I'm meeting again with the CEO of Swiss Post to see what we can learn from what they have done, and to see how we too can offer those services for accident and emergency."

Swiss Post has described its drones as 80cm quadrocopters, sans blades, that are capable of carrying 2kg a maximum range of 20kms, at an average speed of 36km/h.

"For safety reasons, duplicates of both the autopilot and other important sensors (e.g. altimeter, accelerometer, gyrometer) are always installed," Swiss Post said.

"In the event of the failure of all electronics, a parachute would be released automatically. A landing pad that transmits an infrared signal is used at the take-off and landing points."

The CEO added she believes automation could help Australia Post, and the time when drones take people's jobs is "some long way off".

"[Automation] shouldn't be at the cost of jobs," she said. "If we are able to provide a better service, we'll be more competitive in the marketplace.

"Our competitors today are predominately international delivery companies, such as Toll and TNT, and if we are able to automate we should be able to compete more effectively against them."

Holgate said drone deliveries by postal services are rare at the moment, as most countries do not allow it.

Australia Post has diversified its offerings in recent years.

Earlier this year, licensed premises across Victoria began accepting the digital version of the Keypass card developed by Australia Post.

The rollout followed a trial of 50 venues in Fitzroy between October and January.

Australia Post is also part of a triad that is developing the federal government's digital identity solution, Govpass.

"Through Govpass, Australians will be able to easily and safely prove who they are when using government services online. A simple task like applying for a tax file number will be reduced from about 30 days to a matter of minutes," then Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor said in September.

The postal service added later in its hearing on Tuesday that in order to protect the volumes in its letter business, and as an effort to "love and nuture" it, Australia Post was looking at taking spam old school and focusing on marketing letters.

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