UPS has successfully tested a drone that launches from an electric van, delivers a package, and then returns to the vehicle while the driver continues with deliveries.
"While the drone is making its delivery, the driver would continue to the next stop, make another delivery by hand, and the drone would then rendezvous and recharge on top of the UPS package auto", he said. And delivery companies around the world are trying to reduce the cost of last-mile trips with drones. Unlike previous drone tests, suggested UPS, this test incorporated drone delivery into day-to-day delivery truck operations.
The test took place on Monday in Tampa, Florida in conjunction with the Workhorse Group. "This is a big step toward bolstering efficiency in our network and reducing our emissions at the same time". UPS' aim isn't to replace drivers but to make them more efficient by allowing one driver to more quickly and efficiently deliver to several homes near one and other, he said.
UPS used a new electric delivery truck with a drone launchpad atop it.
The drone recharges while docked and can fly for 30 minutes at a time before needing to recharge. It doesn't require a pilot.
Last year Mercedes-Benz announced a "multi-million dollar investment" in Matternet, the developer of autonomous drone systems, to create a similar integrated van/drone delivery system for small packages. When the drone is docked, it's charging up to make a quick jaunt from the truck on the street to the customer's front door.
During a second, unofficial demonstration of the HorseFly for UPS on Monday, some sort of interference - possibly from the broadcast reporters' cameras - caused an issue with the drone's compass.
UPS has about 102,000 delivery drivers on the road each day and rural deliveries are the most expensive.
But Wallace also added that drivers are to remain the face of the company. That company built the drone and the electric UPS package auto used in the test. The government is now using 15 "Zips" drones to make up to 150 emergency deliveries per day of life-saving blood to 21 transfusion facilities in the western half of the country.
This wasn't the first drone test from UPS (UPS). UPS was one of 35 selected from a cross section of key stakeholders to serve on the FAA's drone advisory committee.
From a technology standpoint, the industry needs more development of "sense and avoid" technology to be ready to implement, and FAA still needs "to write the rules that will allow for the safe integration of commercial drones into the National Airspace.", he said.