UPS Tests Truck-Launched Drone Delivery System in Florida

A drone demonstrates delivery capabilities from the top of a UPS truck during testing in Lithia, Florida, U.S. February 20, 2017. (REUTERS/Scott Audette)

Both the drone industry and federal regulators are years away from actual legal drone deliveries in the United States. But that’s not stopping companies 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.

UPS was the latest to try something new with drones on Tuesday when it 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, said Mark Wallace, senior vice president for global engineering and sustainability, UPS.

Imagine a triangular delivery route where the stops are miles apart by road, he said.

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 package car,” he said.

The test “has implications for future deliveries, especially in rural locations where our package cars often have to travel miles to make a single delivery,” Wallace said. 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.

The drones come from the Workhorse Group, an Ohio-based electric truck and drone developer. Workhorse built both the drone and the electric UPS package car used in the test. The drone tested on Monday was an octocopter that is fully integrated with the Workhorse line of electric/hybrid delivery trucks.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Elizabeth Weise