The South African Post Office is set to launch a fleet of drones as it looks to a more effective mail delivery services following protracted strikes which have crippled the company.
The post office has been given the all clear by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (Sacaa), to fly approximately 30 drones around Johannesburg and promises to deliver your mail within an hour of dispatch.
The fleet is manufactured by Kwa-Zulu Natal based BEE firm NdizaNdiza (which means to fly away in Zulu), at a cost of R200,000 per drone, and follows a special tender by Sapo.
The new service is currently being trialled at a number of affluent gated suburban areas in North Joburg and could be launched as early as July 2015 as the project is well ahead of schedule.
The service, called SapoAir, removes many barriers to efficient postal delivery – namely traffic delays, aggressive dogs, Eskom load shedding and striking workers, while the drones would also be able to fly over gated or boomed off areas.
“We are very excited about the project which has come in well ahead of schedule at every point since the initial testing phase began in August last year,” Sapo spokeman Sethemba Enkulu told BusinessTech.
He said that Sapo has been working very closely with the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon, which is awaiting feedback from the US Federal Aviation Administration before it can launch its own drone delivery service called Amazon Prime Air.
Protracted strikes by as many as 10,000 Sapo workers last year has put the company’s future in jeopardy, while an aging IT system has meant that the company’s efficiency has declined markedly over the past five years.
SapoAir forms part of the company’s R800 million ‘infrastructure refresh project’ announced in mid 2014.
Enkulu said that the drones would reinvigorate the company’s flagging image, “and fly us proudly into the 21 century”.
He said that the biggest hurdle had been to get air clearance from the CAA, which allowed the company to conduct evening flights during the testing phase.
“We have trained up 25 pilots who can’t wait to get the project off the ground. We are very proud of what we have achieved in such a short space of time. We are a proudly South African Company,” Enkulu said.
While the details of the costs of SapoAir are still being discussed, the company warned that its new service would be sold as a “premium” product.
The Sapo has invited members of the public to take part in a broader trial, scheduled to take place in May. Interested parties can sign up for the trial on the SapoAir website.