UPS tests drones for home delivery for the first time

22 Feb 2017


On Monday, UPS tested the use of drones for home delivery, for the first time.

The company launched an optocopter or multi-rotor drone on a blueberry farm outside of Tampa, Florida. The UAV delivered a package directly to a home before returning to the van, which had moved to a new location.

The drone, which was pulled down by the van's robotic arms, docked on its roof.

The drone used in the test was made by Ohio-based Workhorse Group Inc, which is a supplier to UPS. The company builds commercial, hybrid electric trucks of which it had sold 350 to UPS, 125 of which are already on the road today.

The company also builds batteries and develops aerospace technologies.

The UPS test was carried out using the HorseFly UAV Delivery system which was tailored to work with its vehicles.

After the drone lifts off, the truck drives away to make the next delivery.

The drone and truck then rendezvous at another location, where a fresh package is loaded on the drone. According to commentators, the implementation of the cycle over a driver's entire shift, would allow UPS to deliver packages more efficiently and save on fuel.

The delivery system was more suited to rural areas, where deliveries were more spread out.

When the drone was docked in the UPS truck it recharged its battery for 30 minutes. 

The drone is capable of packages up to 10 pounds and is big enough to roughly fit in the trunk of a sedan.

However, whether UPS would actually use drones to deliver packages is not certain. John Dodero, UPS' vice president of industrial engineering, told CNNTech it depended on whether automated drones could deliver safely.

The technology behind drone delivery is still nascent and needed perfecting and there were also regulatory issues, he said.

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