UPS Tests Drones for Delivery of Packages

A UPS driver loading up a package for the drone

In this test, the drone made one delivery while the driver continued down the road about 2,000 feet where the drone returned.

The UPS drone and truck were developed by Workhorse, a Cincinnati company that's supplied UPS with several hundred electric delivery trucks. All from inside the truck, the UPS driver could load the drone through the roof and launch it using a control tablet or remote. TechCrunch reports that a second test of the drone failed, with the drone aborting its own launch, falling over, and almost getting crushed. The dock acts as a charging station, but Workhorse claims the drone could operate for up to 30 minutes carrying packages up to 10 pounds, if necessary.

UPS already uses drones (see below photo) to deliver blood and vaccines in Rwanda "many times a day", Abney said. Rural delivery routes are "the most expensive to serve" since drivers have to go such far distances between stops. If every UPS driver had to cover one less mile per day, the company said it would save up to $50 million per year.

The test "has implications for future deliveries, especially in rural locations where our package cars often have to travel miles to make a single delivery", Wallace said.

There are no guarantees UPS will ever deliver an actual package with a drone. What's really cool is that the driver doesn't have to wait for the drone to return, they can just head off to the next delivery location. It's not legal to run a fully automated drone delivery service in the United States.


That's most important to the workers in this situation is the fact that these drones will not replace them. In between deliveries, the battery-powered drone recharges. Under a new system tested by UPS this week, drones could help speed up a delivery driver's route by splitting the work.

UPS realizes that drones are years away from daily use, but Wallace said its founder long ago said, "our horizon is as distant as our mind's eye wishes it to be". It doesn't require a pilot. Last September, UPS staged a mock delivery of urgently needed medicine from Beverly, Mass.to an island three miles off the Atlantic coast.

UPS' second drone mission comes as Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) invests heavily in building its own delivery network, including drones capable of dropping packages in customers' backyards. Director of Safety for UPS Airlines Capt. Houston Mills is also part of the FAA's Drone Advisory Committee (DAC).

The "last mile" isn't just an issue for broadband service providers.

Workhorse Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: WKHS) is a USA - based original equipment manufacturer of medium duty EPA-approved battery-electric delivery vehicles and fully integrated truck-launched, FAA compliant unmanned aerial systems (UAS) delivery drones.

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