Melbourne - Australia Post has successfully field-trialled the use of drones to deliver small packages, clearing the way for test deliveries to customer homes later this year.
The state-owned corporation said the drones will be used for the delivery of online shopping parcels and time-sensitive items such as medication.
"We will put this innovative technology through its paces over the coming weeks and months to understand what it can deliver, how far it can travel, and ultimately, how our customers could receive a parcel," Australia Post Managing Director Ahmed Fahour said.
Postal services around the world are facing dramatic declines in their core letter-delivery business as customers turn to the internet for all forms of correspondence from billing to greeting cards.
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Drones in Sports
Australia Post looks to drones as letter volumes fall
BEIJING, CHINA - AUGUST 21: Mo Farah of Great Britain looks on as he flies a drone during a practice session ahead of the 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships Beijing 2015 at the Beijing National Stadium on August 21, 2015 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - MAY 14: A drone remote-controlled carrying a cloth simulating a ghost with the letter B on it is seen during a second leg match between Boca Juniors and River Plate as part of round of sixteen of Copa Bridgestone Libertadores 2015 at Alberto J. Armando Stadium on May 14, 2015 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Amilcar Orfali/LatinContent/Getty Images)
Players of ASM Clermont Auvergne rugby club take part in a training session on February 19, 2015 at the Marcel Michelin stadium in Clermont-Ferrand, central France, as a drone films them for training analysis. AFP PHOTO / THIERRY ZOCCOLAN (Photo credit should read THIERRY ZOCCOLAN/AFP/Getty Images)
DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 25: A camera-equipped flying drone is seen prior to a game between the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 25, 2014 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke defeated Virginia Tech 66-48. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 7: A drone flies above the scoreboard at Wrigley Field during the seventh inning of the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game on September 7, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jeffrey Phelps/Getty Images)
Racing drones fly during the first SPARK Multirotor Challenge in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina September 10, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
Feb 18, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) attempts a dunk with the ball dropped by a drone in the slam dunk contest during NBA All-Star Saturday Night at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Gerald Herbert-USA TODAY Sports
LILLEHAMMER 20151206.World Cup skijump, normal hill: Stefan Hula (POL) in action. Photo drone above him. REUTERS/Cornelius Poppe/NTB ScanpixATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NORWAY OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN NORWAY. NO COMMERCIAL SALES.
Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera holds a drone which fell on the field during their 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Ecuador at Atahualpa stadium in Quito, November 12, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Granja TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Finland's Janne Korpi performs a jump as a drone is seen in the air during the men's snowboard slopestyle semi-final competition at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games in Rosa Khutor February 8, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (RUSSIA - Tags: OLYMPICS SPORT SNOWBOARDING)
A drone used for filming flies near a crew member up on the mast of the Swedish yacht Ran at the start of the annual Middle Sea Race in Valletta's Grand Harbour October 18, 2014. A record entry of 123 yachts from more than 20 different countries are competing in the 608 nautical mile Mediterranean classic, which takes the yachts from Malta, around Sicily and back.
REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi (MALTA - Tags: SPORT YACHTING) MALTA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN MALTA
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While Australia Post is the first Australian company to get into the area of drone delivery, in the United States online retailer Amazon unveiled a drone delivery prototype in November, joining competitors GOOGL and Wal-Mart[WMTST.UL] who are also looking into the technology. .
Australia's vast interior is one of the most sparsely populated in the world, but drone delivery is unlikely to penetrate beyond the major cities: Amazon's prototype last year managed to fly a package only 15 miles (24 kms).
Australia Post last year posted a A$222 million ($171 million) loss, the company's first full-year loss posting in over 30 years and dramatic down-turn from a A$116.2 million ($89.72 million) profit in 2014. The company attributed some of the loss to a 10.3 per cent fall in the use of stamped letters.