Delivery giant UPS has announced it is testing the use of drones launched from the top of its trucks to deliver items.
A recent test involved a drone leaving a vehicle, delivering a package and returning to the van autonomously, while the van's driver was able to continue on their route.
The drone used was the Workhorse HorseFly UAV Delivery system, touted as a high-efficiency, octocopter delivery drone that has been built to fully integrate with its line of electric/hybrid delivery trucks that UPS uses.
The drone sits on the roof of the trucks being used for the test, within an enclosed unit. The driver can load in a package to the drones delivery ‘cage' and then send it to its destination via a touch screen device
The drone then delivers and package and returns autonomously, leaving the driver free to carry out another delivery. The drone has a 30-minute flight time and can carry packages weighing up to 10 pounds. The video below shows the process in action.
UPS said that using drones in this way could have a huge impact, both by improving the speed at which items are delivered, increasing the number of delivers a single driver can make and cutting down costs by reducing mileage.
"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."
While there are clear benefits to using drones to facilitate delivers Wallace was keen to add that the company does not see a future without its 66,000-strong driver workforce.
"Drivers are the face of our company, and that won't change, 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."
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