UPS tests drone delivery, launching UAV from top of truck

A UPS driver loading up a package for the drone

The test shows how UPS is looking to drones as a way to cut costs and ease delivery in hard-to-reach places.

In the test, UPS used the Workhorse HorseFly UAV Delivery system, which partners an octocopter delivery drone with an electric or hybrid delivery truck, the release said.

The drone and drone-launching truck used in the UPS trial flight were made by Workhorse, an Ohio-based company that builds electric vehicles. In effect, UPS wants to turn their delivery trucks into drone motherships. It went well, but one of the test flights started with a glitch that almost wrecked the drone. UPS says the drones can fly for up to 30 minutes and carry up to 10 pounds.

Delivery drones aren't expected to reach the mainstream for years, if they ever do, but that's not stopping many companies from testing out the new technology.

With UPS's on-road integrated optimization navigation (ORION) routing software, a reduction of one mile per driver per day can save the company up to $50 million over a year.

This is the dream of the UPS delivery drone program, built in partnership with Workhorse, an electric vehicle and drone design company. Just need one little sidekick drone buddy to make the workday run smoother.




But UPS has no timeline for when drones might be put into wider use, Dodero said, partly because federal authorities are still developing regulations on how to use the technology.

The drone was mounted on the top of a delivery truck. "The drone is fully autonomous". The drone sits in a docking station (that doubles as a charging station) atop the truck. Meanwhile the driver was able to take on a separate delivery route. Drone deliveries would allow drivers to avoid driving up to individual drop-off points, thus reducing miles driven. "UPS has about 66,000 delivery drivers on the road each day", the company noted.

Stephen Burns, Workhorse founder and chief executive officer, said it was "wonderful to see this technology applied in such a practical way". Previous experiments saw the company stage a mock delivery of medicine from Beverly, Massachusetts to an island three-miles off the coast.

UPS' second drone mission comes as Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) invests heavily in building its own delivery network, including drones capable of dropping packages in customers' backyards. UPS also is utilizing drones to check inventory on high storage shelves in its warehouses. Headquartered in Atlanta, UPS serves more than 220 countries and territories worldwide.

Workhorse Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: WKHS) is a US - based original equipment manufacturer of medium duty EPA-approved battery-electric delivery vehicles and fully integrated truck-launched, FAA compliant unmanned aerial systems (UAS) delivery drones.

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