Switzerland’s drone delivery program to resume after crashes

A Switzerland drone delivery service run by the Swiss Post is set to resume on January 27th, following a suspension of the program in August 2019 after two drone crashes, including one where the drone’s parachute malfunctioned.

In that time, Swiss Post and Matternet — the US company that operates the drone fleet — set up an “independent board of experienced aviation specialists” to review the companies’ safety procedures and operations and provide suggestions for improvements.

“Swiss Post and Matternet maintain high safety standards and a high level of safety awareness. The processes that were examined were at a high standard even before the incidents,” according to Michel Guillaume, one of the members of the review board. “There are no reasons why flight operations should not be resumed.”

As part of the review, the board is recommending that Swiss Post and Matternet make four changes to their operations:

  1. Matternet should implement the new safety recommendations set by the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) and the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board (STSB) following the previous crashes
  2. Establishment of an independent oversight body for safety-related processes before the end of March 2020
  3. Swiss Post given more control over the actual drone operations (which are currently run by Matternet), including the ability to audit Matternet’s drone operations
  4. Improved safety protocols for Matternet, including the hiring of a dedicated head of safety

The two companies are already working on implementing these suggestions: Matternet has already implemented the safety recommendations and hired a head of safety, and the review board will continue to advise the companies on their drone policies in the future. The two companies have also spent time since the accident in May 2019 running over 2,000 test flights in Switzerland on improved drones that should be less prone to failure.

The Swiss delivery program has been running in Switzerland since 2017, with Swiss Post claiming that the drones allow for lab samples such as blood tests to be flown between hospital facilities and labs up to 45 minutes faster than traditional transportation.

Correction: The drone accident in May was a parachute malfunction; this article original stated that the parachute failed to deploy.

Google launches collaborative game to reveal when I/O 2020 is happening

Every year, Google launches a game or puzzle that people can play to eventually learn the dates for the company’s annual I/O conference, and this year’s game is now live (via 9to5Google).

It’s a space-themed game where users have to work collaboratively to restore an intergalactic satellite network. When you first visit the game’s site, you’ll see the “map” of the galaxy I’ve included at the top of this post as well as a message about the mission and a few progress bars (which have been slowly rising as I’ve been writing this story):

Image: Google

If you accept the mission, a command line box appears with this text:

The satellite cluster nearest your current location has been located. Determine its proper name, then restore its satellites to their original frequencies. If successful, a portion of the Universal Grid will illuminate. Once all clusters are fully operational, the entire Grid will shine brightly and the connectivity of the cosmos restored. Remember, your fellow space citizens will be working alongside you.

You can then type in the word “engage” (no quotes) or click on the Engage box to get to the below screen, where you’ll be able to type in commands to help restore the satellites to their frequencies:

Image: Google

From here, you can pull up a list of commands by typing “help” in the command line box and work to puzzle through applying frequencies. I will fully admit this is where I got stuck — I couldn’t figure out what to do next, even after typing in a few queries into the command line. But hopefully with the collaborative effort of the internet, these puzzles will get solved soon.

In past years, Google I/O has taken place in the first few weeks of May, so perhaps the dates for this year’s I/O will fall in that time frame as well. Here are the dates for the conference for the past four years, if you were curious:

  • 2019: May 7th-9th
  • 2018: May 8th-10th
  • 2017: May 17th-19th
  • 2016: May 17th-19th

In a tweet announcing the game, Google also showed off what could be some of the branding for this year’s I/O: