Amazon isn’t the only company to experiment with the use of drones. On Tuesday, UPS tried out its very own drone experiment in Lithia, Florida. According to UPS senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability, Mark Wallace, some of UPS’s truck will be equipped with drones to be used in rural areas.
However, the use of drones for delivery purposes has yet to be approved in the United States. In fact, it’s estimated that federal regulators and the drone industry are years away from actually making the process legal in the U.S. Yet, this hasn’t entirely stopped companies from utilizing the technology available in order to practice for the future. Many companies like UPS and Amazon want to associate their names with the use of drones as quickly as they can.
When it comes to UPS’s use of drones on their trucks, the company wants to paint a picture of faster delivery to areas where stops can be miles apart from each other. As described, a drone on the top of the van and head to one stop while the driver heads to the other, possibly miles in the opposite direction. In between stops, Wallace says the drone could “Rendezvous and recharge on top of the UPS package car.”
In assurance, UPS says this future drone use is not to replace drivers. In fact, the company hopes this will prevent incidents that cause certain stops to be missed in areas where, over a span of miles, certain destinations can be easily missed. The use of drones for deliveries would also speed things up for homes that are closer to one another.
In Tuesday’s test, both the drones that were used for testing and the van that modified to the drones were built by Workhorse Group. The Ohio-based company specializes in drone and electronic truck development. Workhorse used an octocopter for the test, which is fully integrated with Workhorse’s electric and hybrid delivery trucks.
CEO of Workhorse Group, Stephen Burns, said, “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.”
Not only will the use of drones prove to be more efficient for both driver and consumer, it’s predicted that this will save UPS over $50 million. This amount will be saved due to the reduction of distance that UPS drivers will have to travel. Rural areas are expensive to deliver to due to vehicle expenses and the time the deliveries take.
Yet when it comes to public drone testing, UPS is by no means a novice. In fact, back in September the company launched a drone test in Beverly, Massachusetts. The drone flew off the Atlantic coast and even over open water. The company also uses drones in its warehouses. When there’s a need to inspect inventory located high on storage shelves, UPS makes use of drones to check these locations. This, unlike public drone delivery, is perfectly legal.
UPS also isn’t the only company to test drone delivery methods. Amazon announced the testing of Prime Air back in December. In the United Kingdom, the first package was delivered by drone with the allowance of the Civil Aviation Authority in Britain.
The two mock customers lived not too far from Cambridge where the testing took place. Amazon says its new drone delivery method would take no longer than thirty minutes and carry packages that weigh up to five pounds.
Amazon obtained the United Kingdoms approval for delivery and testing back in 2016. In the United States, however the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has yet to give their okay for drone testing or delivery by any company. So it would seem that allowing drones to make deliveries is something that is quite far into America’s future.
Wallace says that the FAA needs to “write the rules that will allow for the safe integration of commercial drones into the National Airspace.”