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Singapore testing drone delivery of snail mail

The country's postal service has delivered a package containing a t-shirt and a letter across 2 kilometers, or about 1.2 miles.

Singapore's first test of mail delivery via drone included flying over the ocean. Singapore Post

Singapore Post, the country's postal service, has delivered a package in its first drone test.

The drone traveled 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) across the ocean to a nearby island to deliver a bundle with a t-shirt and letter to a postal employee who was waiting to complete the delivery.

While it doesn't sound particularly impressive, the postal service is claiming a world's first in using a drone for mail delivery with recipient authentication. That said, it's not the first time drones have been used for mail delivery. Switzerland's postal service tested drone deliveries earlier this year. E-commerce giant Amazon has been testing drones for deliveries, though regulatory issues have hampered its efforts.

Singapore is no stranger to drones and has seen them used for ice cream delivery and waiter duties. In other parts of Asia, drones are taking flight for a variety of commercial uses.

Singapore's postal service plans to use drones on less accessible routes (such as a nearby island) while redeploying postal employees on busier routes. Singapore Post plans to integrate its drone deliveries with a locker service, though there's no specific timeline. A postal service rep told CNET there are no firm plans for using drones within the dense urban environment of the island state yet.

"We are in the experimentation stage," the rep said. "We can work on heavier payloads with a better drone."

If and when drone deliveries become common, the postal service plans to use an app to provide security and verification for deliveries and to allow customers to schedule the date and time for receiving mail.

In the event of malicious attacks on drones, such as the ones by mooncake craving seniors in China, or mechanical failures due to bad weather, the postal service said the drones will have a built-in parachute to ensure a soft landing and GPS tracking to recover the packages.