Having your online order literally dropped on your doorstep took another step toward reality as UPS shares the news of successful package delivery via a drone launched from atop a UPS vehicle. Call it multitasking at its best: the drone autonomously delivers a package and then returns to the launching vehicle, all while the delivery driver continues along the route to make other deliveries.
UPS says it organized the trial with Workhourse Group, an Ohio-based battery, electric truck and drone developer that built both the drone and the electric UPS package car used in the test. Workhouse’s drone (full name: Workhorse HorseFly™ UAV Delivery system) uses eight rotors, has an airborne capability of a half hour, and can carry a package of up to 10 pounds.
So how does it work? The drone docks on the roof of the delivery truck and a cage, suspended beneath the drone, extends through the truck’s rooftop hatch. A UPS driver inside loads a package into the cage and presses a few buttons that sends the drone on a predetermined, autonomous route to an address. While it’s docked, the battery recharges.
Workhorse says it preset the route for the drone for this test, but in the future, routes could be determined by UPS’s On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation (ORION), UPS’ proprietary routing software (read more about that in a MarketShare post about NAIOP’s tour of Edison Center, one of the company’s largest and most active sorting facilities.)
Is this a game changer to solve the proverbial “last mile” challenge? It certainly helps – trucks are already on the road can increase the quantity of deliveries and reach rural areas faster and easier.
While everyday drone delivery will be a while, Wired cites UPS’ work with the FAA in “drafting new rules to allow commercial drone deliveries and amending a current rule requiring drone operators keep their machines within sight” as steps toward making it happen
UPS says it has been testing automation and robotics technologies, including drones, for years. Last September, UPS staged a mock delivery of urgently needed medicine from Beverly, Massachusetts, to an island three miles off the Atlantic coast. Additionally, UPS is using drones extensively for humanitarian relief, partnering with third-party organizations to deliver life-saving blood and vaccines to hard-to-reach locations in Rwanda. UPS also is utilizing drones to check inventory on high storage shelves in its warehouses.
Kathryn Hamilton is Vice President for Marketing and Communications at NAIOP Corporate.