UPS has announced the successful test of an automated drone delivery system.
The test, carried out in Florida, managed to successfully launch a drone from the top of a UPS truck, deliver a package, and then return to the vehicle which had continued along its original delivery route.
The company believes that this automated drone delivery service has the potential to revolutionise it’s delivery operations, particularly in remote areas in which drivers have long trips between additional destinations.
Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability, said: “This test is different than anything we’ve done with drones so far. It has implications for future deliveries, especially in rural locations where our package cars often have to travel miles to make a single delivery.”
“Imagine a triangular delivery route where the stops are miles apart by road. Sending a drone from a package car to make just one of those deliveries can reduce costly miles driven. This is a big step toward bolstering efficiency in our network and reducing our emissions at the same time.”
UPS has roughly 66,000 drivers on the road every day, and believes that a reduction of just one mile per driver each day could save the company over $50 million a year.
The delivery giant believes the potential for this technology is best when used in tandem with it’s drivers rather than replacing them.
Wallace said: “Drivers are the face of our company, and that won’t change.”
“What’s exciting is the potential for drones to aid drivers at various points along their routes, helping them save time and deliver on increasing customer service needs that stem from the growth of e-commerce.”
Though experts say large scale drone deliveries still have a way to go, UPS has been testing drones and automated technology for several years. just last year the Federal Aviation Administration issued rules that allow for small scale commercial deliveries.
Stephen Burns, Workhorse founder and CEO, said: “It’s wonderful to see this technology applied in such a practical way.”
“The drone is fully autonomous. It doesn’t require a pilot. So the delivery driver is free to make other deliveries while the drone is away.”
UPDATE: The second test of the Drone was more problematic and saw the drone tip on take off and almost crushed by the truck’s closing roof.