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UPS Tries Arming Its Brown-Clad Drivers With an Octocopter Drone

In Lithia Florida making deliveries.                  UPS

This is the dream of the UPS delivery drone program, built in partnership with Workhorse, an electric vehicle and drone design company. The drone took off from a UPS auto roof and flew autonomously to its destination where it dropped off a package and returned to the vehicle.

UPS is one of several e-commerce and delivery companies experimenting with drones as a way to reduce delivery times and access difficult-to-reach locations more efficiently. A reduction of one mile per driver per day over a year can save up to $50 million, according to UPS. Then the UPS team got cocky and tried to run a second unplanned delivery - which started with a drone glitch, causing it to almost fall off the delivery truck and nearly be crushed when the drone hatch started closing with the drone still stuck to on the roof.

The test took place on Monday in Tampa, Florida in conjunction with the Workhorse Group. "This is a big step toward bolstering efficiency in our network and reducing our emissions at the same time", he said. The drone then flies up to the drop off location, releases the package and autonomously returns to the van. UPS has been developing drones for a number of different types of deliveries, and the HorseFly drone is the model to assist drivers on delivery routes. UPS said it hopes the drones will move into this capacity, however, current FAA restrictions to "line-of-sight" operation of drones still hamper the sort of autonomy that these deliveries require.

Inside the nest is a Workhorse HorseFly autonomous drone with the ability to fly for 30 minutes and carry 10 pounds worth of packages. Workhorse built both the drone and the electric UPS package auto used in the test. When the drone is docked, it's charging up to make a quick jaunt from the truck on the street to the customer's front door. Rural delivery routes are the most expensive to serve due to the time and vehicle expenses required to complete each delivery.

"Our drivers are the face of our company", Dodero said. In September it stated a mock delivery from Beverly, Mass.to an island off the Atlantic coast, over open water. Director of Safety for UPS Airlines Capt. Houston Mills is also part of the FAA's Drone Advisory Committee (DAC).

UPS has not said when they plan on rolling out drone delivery to the United States.

From a technology standpoint, the industry needs more development of "sense and avoid" technology to be ready to implement, and FAA still needs "to write the rules that will allow for the safe integration of commercial drones into the National Airspace.", he said.