The Russian Post tested its new drone mail delivery system for the first time on Monday, April 2, taking off on its maiden voyage from a miniature launchpad bearing the Russian Post’s blue and white logo. It didn’t make it very far, though — smashing into a brick wall only seconds after takeoff.
The 7-kilogram quadcopter was carrying a 2-kilogram parcel for delivery to the village of Nizhny Sayantuia, which is located over 9 miles (15 kilometers) away from the Siberian city hosting the test flight, Ulan-Ude, the sparsely-populated capital of the Republic of Buryatia located 3,500 miles (5,640 km) east of Moscow.
Unfortunately, the trip was cut short after soaring into the air for only a few seconds, when the unmanned aerial vehicle veered sharply off-course, abruptly losing altitude as it hurled forcefully straight into the wall of a 3-story residential building nearby, where it crashed and shattered into pieces from the tremendous impact, then fell to the ground in a mangled heap.
The drone delivery system is part of an effort announced in 2016 by the national mail and parcel delivery service to reach distant regions across Russia’s vast territory, such as Ulan-Ude.
A small crowd of local residents, journalists, and regional officials were in attendance for the historic launch, including the postal service’s director, Nikolai Podguzov, and the Head of the Republic of Buryatia, Aleksei Tsydenov. The spectators watched in shock as the drone barreled hectically towards its fatal demise, some of them blurting out expletives in immediate, involuntary reaction to the crash.
Fortunately, nobody was injured from the falling debris of the demolished quadcopter, and the package it failed to deliver is apparently still intact. The drone, however, was damaged beyond repair, reportedly costing the Postal Service 1.2 million rubles ($20,900 USD).
Russian Post quickly distanced itself from the drone crash, saying it was present at the launch merely as a guest. It said the drone was made by a company called Rudron/Expeditor 3M, who also organized the testing. The company could not immediately be reached for comment.
Before the crash, Tsydenov expressed plans for his region to start manufacturing its own drones. Afterwards, he suggested that the 100+ nearby Wi-Fi connections may have disrupted the flight of the device.
He refused be discouraged over the initial failure, however, and maintained his perseverance and determination to keep trying until they get it right, pointing out that “Those who don’t risk don’t get a result. If we become a pilot region, then we will collect all the data, work out the technology so that it can be further replicated.”