OK, so this isn’t your typical drone delivery service-type story.
We’ve heard that every company, from Amazon to 7-Eleven, is developing drones for delivering their goods, all in effort to wipe-out the middle man (aka delivery man) and related costs, but UPS, one of the largest delivery services in the world, is testing a new type of system that involves a drone-releasing van. Essentially, a drone leaves the UPS van, then directly drops off a package, and returns to the van, which has already moved.
The idea is that while the drone is doing its thing, the UPS driver can continue on down the road to the next house and deliver a package. They’re hypothetically delivering twice the amount of packages and covering double the area — but in the same amount of time. UPS estimated that if it can cut just one mile from the 66,000 routes it covers every day, the company could save roughly $50 million annually.
UPS designed a special diesel-electric delivery van that houses the UAVs. The driver only needs to hops in the back of the van, then drop a package in a delivery drone’s carrying cage, and launch it through the van’s retractable roof. The drone can autonomously do the route and return without the driver. UPS said the University of Cincinnati developed this system with Ohio-based Workhouse Group in 2014.
As for the drones, which weigh just under 10 pounds, they can fly for up to 30 minutes at a time. UPS began testing its drone system on 20 February on a sparsely populated piece of land outside Tampa, Florida. It would still need to FAA approval before a public rollout, though.