The 'island villages' of Saarikylät to the southeast of the city of Tampere in the Pirkanmaa region contain seven villages located on different islands — and they are a paper deliverer's worst nightmare.
This has prompted a local logistics company to come up with a novel solution — set to be launched next year — which will see newspapers delivered to customers by remote controlled drones.
Markus Hohenthal is CEO of Lentola Logistics, the company behind the pilot project, and he told Yle that the three-month trial is scheduled to begin in March.
"We are trying out a new way of distributing to rural areas instead of by car. This is more cost-effective, faster and more environmentally friendly than the current way," Hohenthal said.
A survey of customers carried out by the company suggested that people are willing to pay extra if their newspaper arrives early and in their own yard.
The drones set to be used for the trial can carry a load of more than 3.5 kilos at a time, but will only carry a few newspapers at the start and will be restricted to distances of about 20 kilometres.
"Drones can fly in a horizontal line at about 80 kilometres per hour. It takes about a minute to drop a single newspaper," Hohenthal noted, adding that each trip would take about 20 minutes.
Therefore, in theory, one drone could serve just under a hundred households.
However, the trial will be challenging, Hohenthal said, especially in freezing weather.
"To our knowledge, this has not been done anywhere else in the world," he said.
If successful, the experiment could be replicated in many other sectors, such as to deliver mail, bags of groceries, or medicine to remote areas.
The Media Industry Research Foundation of Finland is supporting the trial with funding of 60,000 euros.
The cost of the service is not yet known as it depends on a number of different factors, not least of is the size of the potential customer base.
"If the drones are deployed on a large scale in rural areas, it would be cheaper than distributing newspapers by car," Hohenthal said.
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