UPS has begun testing the use of drones to make commercial deliveries of packages to remote or difficult-to-access locations, working with drone-maker CyPhy Works.
The companies staged a mock delivery of urgently needed medicine from Beverly, Mass., to Children’s Island, which is about 3 miles off the Atlantic coast.
“Our focus is on real-world applications that benefit our customers,” said Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability. “We think drones offer a great solution to deliver to hard-to-reach locations in urgent situations where other modes of transportation are not readily available.”
In August, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued new rules that expanded the uses of drones in commercial applications and requiring operators to adhere to certain safety regulations.
UPS has said it believes these new rules are a step in the right direction, and with the recent appointment of UPS Airlines’ director of safety Houston Mills to the FAA’s new drone advisory committee, UPS intends to keep working closely with regulators.
The company already has been testing drones for other applications within the company. It has tested using drones in warehouses to check high storage racks to confirm stock or available space, and the company is exploring the use of drones to deliver humanitarian aid in hard-to-reach parts of the world.
UPS is using CyPhy’s Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications system. The battery-powered drone flies itself, so very little user training is required. It is extremely durable, has night vision and features secure communications that cannot be intercepted or disrupted, according to the company.
UPS and CyPhy flew the PARC from Beverly to Children’s Island to test the viability of using the drone to make a time-critical delivery. In the mock scenario, the drone successfully carried an asthma inhaler to a child at a camp on the island, which is not reachable by automobile.
“Tests like these reveal a bridge to the future of customer service and urgent package delivery,” said Wallace. “We are continuously exploring ways to improve our network to efficiently support our customers’ demanding requirements.”