Police divers have been called in to rescue a state-of-the-art postal drone after it crashed into a Swiss lake and sank while carrying blood samples from a hospital to a nearby lab.
The Swiss Post drone crashed into Lake Zurich in southern Switzerland while transporting the blood samples from a hospital on the western shore to a central laboratory on the eastern shore, according to local media.
Eyewitnesses say they suddenly saw a red and white parachute being deployed before the drone slowly descended towards the water.
As emergency services were unable to locate the crashed drone on the surface, police divers had to scour the bottom of Lake Zurich.
Two divers managed to retrieve the drone from a depth of 66 feet, about 656 feet from the shore.
A Swiss Post spokesman said: “We are relieved that the drone has been found.
“If the drone registers unsolvable problems or if it deviates from the designated path, it turns off its rotors and triggers the parachute. As it descends and approaches the ground it draws attention to itself by honking and flashing.”
Forensic investigators are cooperating with the drone’s developers to find out why it suddenly dropped out of the sky.
Leading the investigation is the Swiss Safety Investigation Board (SUST), while the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (BAZL) is also keeping a close eye on the matter.
BAZL spokesman Christian Schubert said: “Based on the findings from the accident investigation, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation will assess whether quality assurance measures must be taken and under what conditions these drone flights can be continued by Swiss Post.”
The blood samples carried by the drone have been described as “non-relevant” by the clinic.
Hospital spokesman Claude Kaufmann said: “Until the matter is resolved, the drones remain grounded. In the meantime, lab tests will be transported by usual means.”
Reports said that the drone in question is a Matternet M2 V9.
According to the Swiss Post, the drone has successfully operated over 3,000 flights in the cities of Zurich, Bern and Lugano.
The postal service has been cooperating with hospitals across the country to improve logistics.
The project’s website explains that “thanks to the use of drones, transporting these [medical] samples should become more flexible, more eco-friendly and less dependent on traffic conditions”.
It reads: “A car journey of 45 minutes becomes a flight of just a few minutes in uncongested airspace, which means true added value for our customers and their patients.”
As well as Swiss Post, the Austrian postal service is also experimenting with the use of drones to deliver packages, saying that it could improve the speed of deliveries in remote Alpine locations and decrease costs.