Soon residents in France can send and receive mail and parcels by drone. Many countries like Switzerland, Germany, Australia and Singapore have already tested mail drone delivery.

The General Directorate for Civil Aviation approved the programme proposed by DPDgroup, the international express subsidiary of French postal service Le Groupe La Poste. The programme will run as an experiment for now until it can develop into a full-fledged one.

The first test will be made once a week between two places in Provence region in southern France. Mail and packages will be loaded into the drone at Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Beaume and then flown nearly 15 km to a town in Pourrieres. This is a recognised and approved route by the postal service which will continue to discover more such routes in the country.

As of now, only non-residential customers, including a handful of tech startups, are participating in the experiment. The customers are expected to drop off and pick up parcels at recognised booths that will be set up at either end of the route. The mail or parcels being sent can weigh up to 3 kg and will be automatically taken from the undercarriage of the drone.

Technical specifications of the drones

  • Range: up to 20km
  • Payload: up to 3kg
  • Max speed: 30km/h
  • Navigation system capable of transmitting up to 50km
  • On-board GPS and camera with live data stream
  • Automatic parachute (detection of anomalies during flight and automatic deployment in case of fall)

The Le Groupe La Poste project has been under development since 2014 in collaboration with Atechsys, a French drone company. Eventually, the service hopes to use drones to deliver parcels in hard to reach rural or mountainous regions, where last-mile delivery is difficult.

Other countries like the UK and the US have also been contemplating such a service. The Royal Mail in the UK had expressed interest in a similar programme after reports came in that rural postal services in the country were under threat due to the high delivery costs of reaching remote areas.