UPS Tests UAS to Make Delivery in Rural Area



On Feb. 20, UPS used the Workhorse Group-manufactured HorseFly UAV Delivery system, launched from the top of a UPS package car, to deliver a package to a home in Lithia, Florida, to test the potential use of UAS used for deliveries in rural areas. While the UAS was making its delivery, the UPS driver was making a separate delivery of their own.

“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," says Workhorse's founder and CEO Stephen Burns.

As a high-efficiency, octocopter delivery UAS, the HorseFly is fully integrated with Workhorse’s line of electric/hybrid delivery trucks, has a battery life of 30 minutes and can carry a package weighing up to 10 pounds.

In order to make the deliveries via UAS, a UPS driver first loads a package into a cage that is suspended beneath the UAS and extended through a hatch into the truck. The driver then presses a button on a touch screen that sends the UAS on a preset autonomous route to an address. After it makes its delivery, the UAS returns to the dock on the roof of the delivery truck, where it recharges in between flights.

“This test is different than anything we’ve done with drones so far,” says UPS’ senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability Mark Wallace through press release. “It has implications for future deliveries, especially in rural locations where our package cars often have to travel miles to make a single delivery.”

Wallace continues by saying, "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 estimates that it can save up to $50 million if over one year, one mile traveled can be reduced per driver, per day. UPS would like to accomplish this goal through its On-Road Integrated Optimization Navigation routing software, also known as ORION. 

This test was the first by UPS in which it demonstrated how UAS could assist in making non-urgent residential deliveries during day-to-day operations.

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Photo Courtesy of UPS

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