UPS Tests “Last Step” Drone Delivery

Test demonstrates potential efficiencies drones can provide on rural delivery routes

Unlike previous drone tests, UPS/Workhorse test incorporates drone delivery into day-to-day delivery operations

Earlier this week, UPS announced that it has successfully tested a delivery drone that launches from the top of a UPS® package car, autonomously delivers a package to a home and then returns to the vehicle while the delivery driver continues along the route to making deliveries.

UPS, like Amazon, is working to reduce delivery times and its growing logistics bill. You can read more about Amazon’s efforts in my Amazon Prime Air Update.

The test was conducted on Monday in Lithia, Fla. in partnership with Workhorse Group (NASDAQ: WKHS), an Ohio-based battery-electric truck and drone developer. Workhorse built the drone and the electric UPS package car used in the test.

The drone used in Monday’s test was the Workhorse  HorseFly™ UAV Delivery system.. It’s an octocopter that’s fully integrated with Workhorse’s line of electric/hybrid delivery trucks. The drone docks on the roof of the delivery truck. A cage suspended beneath the drone, extends through a hatch into the truck. A UPS driver inside loads a package into the cage and presses a button on a touch screen, sending the drone on a preset autonomous route to an address. The battery-powered HorseFly drone recharges while it’s docked. It can carry a package weighing up to 10 pounds.

I like UPS’s approach to studying how drone delivery can reduce costs. A reduction of just one mile per driver per day over one year can save UPS up to $50 million. UPS has about 66,000 delivery drivers on the road each day. It’s easy to see how a delivery program like this, at least in rural areas where homes are far apart and drivers have to travel long distances to make a single delivery, has the potential to save UPS a ton of money. A program like this also has environmental benefits.

I’m encouraged to see companies like Amazon and UPS working to realize the cost saving potential of UAV’s. I’m especially encouraged to see the both companies refining their approaches into programs that have the potential to be deployed in the field in the near-term future.

Way to go UPS!

UPS serves on the FAA’s drone advisory committee.

Originally posted by Carl Bruckner
President at Concentric Sky.

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