Chunghwa Post might begin testing uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) to deliver mail to Siaoliouciou Island (小琉球) from March next year, the Institute of Transportation said yesterday.
The move is part of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ push to increase the commercial use of drones, the institute said, adding that the postal company previously tested UAVs for mail delivery in Tainan’s Zuojhen District (左鎮) and on Alishan.
In Tainan, the drones carried 5kg shipments of peaches from farms in the district to the Zuojhen Post Office, cutting what is typically a 90-minute truck route to 15 minutes, it said.
On Alishan, UAVs delivered medical supplies to isolated communities, it said.
Both trials were aimed at testing the feasibility of using drones for deliveries, but did not investigate the commercial viability of such a delivery method, it said.
The institute is in March to start accepting bids from drone operators that would conform to the cost and service needs of Chunghwa Post, it said, adding that it would perform trial runs after bids are awarded.
It takes about 45 minutes to reach the Siaoliouciou post office from Pingtung County’s Donggang Township (東港), about 16km away, Chunghwa Post said.
The company transports 500kg to 800kg daily between the post offices, and is sometimes unable to make deliveries in winter when seas are rough, it said.
UAVs could help overcome the challenges of the sea, but they also come with their own limitations, it said, citing a weight limit of 20kg per delivery, and their inability to carry heavy loads in strong winds.
“Cost is also an issue. When we used drones to deliver fruit in Tainan we discovered that the associated costs were higher than the value of the fruit,” it said, adding that costs would have to be reduced for the delivery model to be commercially viable.
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