The German automaker thinks vans and drones are the perfect combination.

Turns out Amazon and UPS aren’t the only companies interested in drone delivery. Mercedes-Benz is teaming with U.S. drone systems developer Matternet and Swiss online retail firm Siroop for a drone delivery pilot program in Zurich, Switzerland.

The program, which started September 25, uses drones working in concert with modified delivery vans. The drones won’t deliver packages directly to customers. They’ll pick the items up and fly to one of two Mercedes-Benz Vito (a.k.a. Metris) vans, which will stop at four points around Zurich. There, drones will drop off their packages and the vans will deliver them to the customers. The entire process will be timed and compared to conventional delivery methods, a Mercedes press release said.

Mercedes believes using a van, rather than a drone, for the last leg of the delivery has certain advantages. For one, the customer’s experience doesn’t change: They’ll still be greeted at the door by a delivery person, not a drone. Landing the Matternet M2 drones on the roofs of vans also keeps them high off the ground, Mercedes notes, potentially decreasing the risks to nearby pedestrians.

If the Swiss pilot program goes well, Mercedes will push for greater integration of drones into deliver services.


Image: Daimler AG