UPS's autonomous parcel-carrying drone takes off from a delivery truck

UPS's autonomous parcel-carrying drone takes off from a delivery truck


just like designboom predicted, drones are already making serious waves in 2017. having a package dropped at your front door by an autonomous octocopter is quickly becoming a probable reality, and UPS has just made a successful delivery using a drone launched from atop a parcel truck. the craft autonomously delivered its load before returning to the vehicle, which meanwhile continued to make a separate conveyance. the test demonstrates the potential of using drones for delivery on rural routes that are out of the way, and this is a possible change that the shipping company envisions for the future. 

the autonomous drone launches from atop UPS package car



UPS conducted the test in florida in tandem with workhorse group—an ohio-based electric truck and drone developer which built both the craft and car in question. the drone used is the workhorse horsefly UAV delivery system— a high-efficiency octocopter that docks neatly onto the roof of a delivery truck. a cage suspended beneath the drone extrends through a hatch into the truck to be loaded with a package by the driver.

the UPS driver loads the drop-down cage with the correct parcel 



the driver then simply presses a button on a touch screen, sending the drone off on its preset route to an address. the battery-powered horsefly drone has a 30 minute flight time, then recharges while it’s docked. the device is fully autonomous meaning there’s no need for a pilot, freeing up the car driver to make other deliveries whilst the drone is in action. UPS plans to experiment in determining routes with their ‘on-road integrated optimization and navigation’ (ORION) system, which is the company’s proprietary routing software.

the craft can carry a weight of up to 10 pounds



mark wallace—UPS senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability—explains that the test has big ‘implications for future deliveries, especially in rural locations where our package cars often have to travel miles to make a single delivery. sending a drone from a car can reduce costly miles driven, so this is a big step towards bolstering efficiency in our network and reducing emissions at the same time.’ although unlike previous tests carried out by UPS, this drone focuses on non-urgent residential deliveries, a reduction of just one mile per driver per day over one year can save UPS up to $50 million.

the drone can fly for 30 minutes on a single battery

making deliveries in rural areas is a role UPS envisages for drones in the future

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