Video Tip: Watching UPS’s Drones Deliver
“Both the drone industry and federal regulators are years away from actual legal drone deliveries in the U.S.,” writes USA Today (Feb. 21, 2017). But that’s not stopping UPS from testing possibilities, both to get the visual of a drone with their logo out in front of the public and to see what works. The firm this week ran a test of a truck-launched drone delivery system for rural areas in Lithia, Fla. The drone-equipped vans would only be used on rural routes, says UPS.
Imagine a triangular delivery route where the stops are miles apart by road. The van-top drone would allow a UPS driver to make one delivery at the lower-left of the triangle, after launching a drone that would autonomously fly and deliver to the top of the triangle. 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 truck.
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. 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.
UPS estimates that reducing the distance its truck drive by just one mile per driver per day over one year could save the company up to $50 million. Rural delivery routes are the most expensive to serve, due to the time and vehicle expenses required to complete each delivery.