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UPS tests residential drone delivery from vehicle roof

UPS has successfully tested a home delivery drone that launches from the top of a UPS package car while the driver continues separate deliveries.

The drone autonomously delivered a package to a home, returning to the vehicle upon successful completion.

The test was conducted in Lithia, Florida, with the help of Ohio-based battery-electric truck and drone developer Workhorse Group.

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.”

A reduction of just one mile per driver per day over a year can save UPS up to $50m. The package delivery company has around 66,000 delivers drivers on the roads every day, with rural delivery routes being the most expensive due to the time and vehicle expenses required to complete them.

The success of a drone making one delivery while the driver made another is a process UPS envisions for the future.

“Drivers are the face of our company and that won’t change,” added Wallace. “What is 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.”

The drone used in the test was a Workhouse HorseFly UAV Delivery system, an octocopter delivery device that is integrated with Workhorse’s electric and hybrid delivery trucks.

The drone docks on the roof of the truck and a cage is suspended beneath the drone, extending through a hatch into the truck. The driver inside the vehicle loads a package into the cage and launches the drone from a touchscreen device, sending it out on a preset route.

This drone is battery-powered and recharges while it is docked, has a flight time of 30 minutes, and can carry a package weighing up to 10 lb (4.5kg).

Stephen Burns, Workhorse founder and CEO, commented, “It’s wonderful to see this technology applied in such a practical way. The drone is fully autonomous and doesn’t require a pilot, so the delivery driver is free to make other deliveries while the drone is away.”

February 23, 2017

Written by Kirstie Pickering


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