LITHIA, Fla. – UPS and truck-launched drone maker Workhorse Group this week delivered a residential package by drone, which was launched from atop a package truck.
The package was successfully delivered to a home Feb. 20. The drone then returned to the vehicle while the delivery driver continued along the route making separate deliveries.
“This test is different than anything we’ve done with drones so far. It has implications for future deliveries, especially in rural locations where our package cars often have to travel miles to make a single delivery,” said Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice-president of global engineering and sustainability. “Imagine a triangular delivery route where the stops are miles apart by road. Sending a drone from a package car to make just one of those deliveries can reduce costly miles driven. This is a big step toward bolstering efficiency in our network and reducing our emissions at the same time.”
UPS says a reduction of just one mile per driver per day over a year can save the company up to US$50 million. Rural delivery routes are the most expensive to serve due to the time and vehicle expenses required to complete each delivery, the company says. In this test scenario, the drone made one delivery while the driver continued down the road to make another.
“Drivers are the face of our company, and that won’t change,” Wallace said. “What’s exciting is the potential for drones to aid drivers at various points along their routes, helping them save time and deliver on increasing customer service needs that stem from the growth of e-commerce.”
The drone was a Workhorse HorseFly UAV Delivery system, which is integrated into Workhorse’s line of electric-hybrid delivery trucks. The drone docks on the roof of the truck. The UPS driver loads the package into a cage inside the back of the truck and pushes a button, sending the drone on a pre-set autonomous route to an address. The drone recharges while docked. It has a 30-minute flight time capacity and can carry packages up to 10 lbs.
“It’s wonderful to see this technology applied in such a practical way,” said Stephen Burns, Workhorse founder and CEO. “The drone is fully autonomous. It doesn’t require a pilot. So, the delivery driver is free to make other deliveries while the drone is away.”