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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A frightening incident earlier this year in Switzerland now serves as a reminder of why we need to know more about the safety of urban delivery drones.

Driving the news: A malfunctioning drone operated by Swiss Post plummeted to the ground near Zurich, narrowly missing a group of kindergarten children, according to IEEE Spectrum.

  • The drone's emergency parachute failed after the line snagged on a sharp edge of the drone itself, causing the 22-pound device to fall quickly from the sky, a preliminary report found.
  • Swiss Post suspended the service indefinitely and called on the manufacturer, Mountain View, California-based Matternet, to make safety improvements before it could resume flying.

In a statement, Matternet said it had never seen its parachute system fail.

"At Matternet we take the safety of our technology and operations extremely seriously. A failure of the parachute system is a clear failure of our safety mechanisms and we are taking all the appropriate measures to address it."

What we're watching: The number of drones is expected to soar across multiple industries in the next few years, but only if they're proven safe.

  • In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration is weighing proposed rule changes that would allow drones to fly over people and at night — two circumstances that are currently prohibited without a waiver.
  • A series of pilot projects are underway in several states that aim to demonstrate how drones could be operated safely.

The bottom line: Drones have almost unlimited uses — delivering everything from medicine to pizza to inspecting infrastructure, such as pipelines and buildings. But regulators must ensure they're safe before people will accept them.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.

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