UPS Tests Package-Delivering Drone

In Lithia Florida making deliveries.                  UPS

This is the dream of the UPS delivery drone program, built in partnership with Workhorse, an electric auto and drone design company.

Using this system, a UPS driver can place a package inside the cage of an octocopter delivery drone docked on the roof of the truck.

This test was conducted in Lithia, Florida, with Workhorse Group - a battery-electric truck and drone developer based in Ohio.

This drone usage isn't about replacing delivery drivers, it's about making the delivery drivers day more efficient. The drone has a cage attached to it that drops into the DPS truck when the drone docks on the roof. The idea is that, while a driver has stopped to deliver one package, a drone could be delivering another. Under a new system tested by UPS this week, drones could help speed up a delivery driver's route by splitting the work. Meanwhile the driver was able to take on a separate delivery route. Cutting just one mile per day from a driver's route could save UPS up to $50 million a year, the company said.

UPS Chief Financial Officer Richard Peretz noted that government policy regarding drones is still being developed, and they'll have to see what the regulation will be. While UPS says this test does not demonstrate the end-all goal, it is "a possible role UPS envisions for drones in the future", he said.

During a second, unofficial demonstration of the HorseFly for UPS on Monday, some sort of interference - possibly from the broadcast reporters' cameras - caused an issue with the drone's compass.

Using drones to deliver packages doesn't need to eliminate delivery drivers' jobs. Once secured, the drone starts on a preset autonomous route to the delivery address.

To be clear, we're not now facing a UPS drone invasion with many multiples of autonomous flying machines attacking the USA.

"The drone is fully autonomous", said Stephen Burns, Workhorse founder and CEO. It doesn't require a pilot.

According to UPS, this model has an endurance of 30-minutes, and can carry packages weighing up to 10 pounds (around 4.5 kilograms).

Last September, UPS staged a mock delivery of urgently needed medicine from Beverly, Mass., to an island 3 miles off the Atlantic coast. UPS also is utilizing drones to check inventory on high storage shelves in its warehouses.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations only allow drones to go no more than 400 feet in the air, although those regulations could soon change. UPS was one of 35 selected from a cross section of key stakeholders to serve on the FAA's drone advisory committee.