Sweden has taken a step closer toward regular drone delivery operations with UAV services company Aerit wrapping up a large-scale pilot project in partnership with Swedish supermarket chain ICA.
A major player in the development of drone services, including deliveries, Aerit completed the trial by transporting groceries ordered from ICA to homes in the large Norrtälje area north of Stockholm. The company was tapped to organize that dry run last year and had carefully prepared the operation of beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights of its proprietary Nimbi UAVs across the 38 square-mile Norrtälje area – in temperatures that plunged to minus 10 degrees Celsius.
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The six-day test run Aerit orchestrated delivered groceries to 10 out of the 30 households that volunteered to participate in the trial, and which then ordered groceries from the ICA Nära Gräddö Skärgårdshandel store using the chain’s online app. Once they had, Nimbi UAVs transported goods to their destinations in much the same way DroneUp and Zipline craft do for Walmart clients in the US – albeit in extremely cold and snowy conditions the Nordic nation is (in)famous for.
“The pilot project has been an unqualified success,” said Alex Perrien, CEO of the 2021-founded Aerit. “We reliably provided access to goods and services in harsh weather conditions to locations that normally require several modes of transportation to reach. We have replaced short car and boat trips to the store with Nimbi flights, reducing travel time while improving safety and sustainability.”
The Norrtälje drone delivery trial was not the first Aerit has successfully completed. Last year its Nimbi craft flew a 2.7-kilometer BVLOS mission in Halland county, on Sweden’s southwest coast transporting a grocery order. It marked the first commercial UAV delivery flight in the country and was, at that time, just the second BVLOS operation.
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This week’s Norrtälje pilot program both extended the range and complicated the conditions in which Nimbi drones had to fly as a further step toward regular UAV delivery Aerit is planning to launch 2023.
The trial was funded by Sweden’s Vinnova innovation agency and backed by Aerit’s partners ICA, Research Institutes of Sweden, and Norrtälje administrators who gauged the viability and public attitudes toward the aerial service.
Also supporting the effort was the nation’s transport agency Transportstyrelsen, whose responsibility for all modes of conveyance made its authorization of BLVOS flights above Norrtälje critical.
“In addition to the support of Vinnova and our many project partners, none of this would have been possible without the innovative leadership at Transportstyrelsen,” Perrien said. “[It] is working hard to maintain [the] competitiveness of the Swedish airspace.”