Ohio-based electric truck and drone technology developer Workhorse Group is helping UPS in delivery technology using drones. UPS tested another drone delivery scenario in September of previous year, flying to an island off the coast of Boston to simulate the delivery of time-sensitive medical supplies. The growth of online sales during the 2016 holiday shopping season was estimated to be between 15 and 22 percent, according to various analysts.
The test shows how drones could help in making non-urgent residential deliveries as part of day-to-day operations.
UPS ran its first public test of the HorseFly on Monday, in a quiet suburb outside Tampa, Florida. UPS said the test went as expected.
In the future, those waiting on a package delivery in a rural area might have to keep an eye on the sky instead of the road.
Creating more efficient deliveries was a primary goal of the UPS test.
Imagine a triangular delivery route where the stops are miles apart by road, he said. Sending a drone from a package auto to make just one of those deliveries can reduce costly miles driven. Using a drone to deliver one package as the driver delivers another would reduce travel time and emissions.
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The financial benefits are also significant. If every UPS driver had to cover one less mile per day, the company said it would save up to $50 million per year. "UPS has about 66,000 delivery drivers on the road each day", the company noted.
How does a UPS drone deliver packages? This is a possible role UPS envisions for drones in the future.
But will brown-painted drones replace the familiar brown-uniformed drivers of UPS? Meanwhile the driver was able to take on a separate delivery route.
Drones can also be used in hard to reach places or disaster areas and to deliver biomedicines with short life spans customized for individuals, UPS CEO David Abney told reporters at the company's investor conference in NY on Tuesday. The company describes it as a "high-efficiency, octocopter delivery drone that is fully integrated with Workhorse's line of electric/hybrid delivery trucks". The drone, made by a company called Workhorse, flew out of a retractable roof on the truck to make the delivery. Once secured, the drone starts on a preset autonomous route to the delivery address.
"It's wonderful to see this technology applied in such a practical way", said Workhorse CEO Stephen Burns in a press release.
Between flights, the drone would recharge its battery while docked in the UPS truck. It doesn't require a pilot. Drone deliveries would allow drivers to avoid driving up to individual drop-off points, thus reducing miles driven.