UPS has announced they’ve successfully tested a drone launched from the top of a UPS package car that will autonomously deliver packages to a home. After a completed delivery the drone will then return to the vehicle while the delivery driver continues along the route to make a separate delivery. UPS conducted the test in Lithia, Florida with Workhorse Group, an Ohio-based battery-electric truck and drone developer. Workhorse built the drone and the electric UPS package car used in the test.
“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,” said Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability. “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.”
Rural delivery routes are the most expensive to serve due to the time and vehicle expenses required to complete each delivery, and is an area where a drone could make a real impact. In this test, the drone made one delivery while the driver continued down the road to make another. For this test, Workhorse preset the route for the drone. But in the future, routes could be determined by UPS’s On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation (ORION), which is the company’s proprietary routing software.
“Drivers are the face of our company, and that won’t change,” Mr. Wallace said. “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.”
“It’s wonderful to see this technology applied in such a practical way,” said Stephen Burns, Workhorse founder and CEO. “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.”
For an interactive 360 degree view of the delivery, check out the video below: