Christina Cardoza

Feb 21, 2017 3:27:05 PM

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UPS is looking to implement the use of drones in its daily delivery service. The company announced it is experimenting with a drone that launches from the top of a vehicle, autonomously delivers a package, and returns to the vehicle, all while the driver makes separate deliveries along his or her route.

“This test is different than anything we’ve done with drones so far,” said Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability. “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.”

The drone delivery was tested in Lithia, Fla., and made possible with the help of Workhorse Group, a battery-electric truck and drone provider. According to UPS, this could help save time and money. UPS makes about 66,000 deliveries each day, with rural delivery being the most expensive to serve.

“It’s wonderful to see this technology applied in such a practical way,” said Stephen Burns, Workhorse’s founder and CEO. “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.”

This isn’t the first time UPS has dabbled in drones. Previously it looked into drones delivering medicine for humanitarian relief, checking inventory, and delivering life-saving blood transfusions and vaccines. This is, however, the first time UPS is using drones for non-urgent residential deliveries.

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