UPS has successfully launched its first truck-launched drone delivery.
Working with electric delivery truck & drone maker Workhorse, UPS' specially-engineered truck features a roof that slides open - revealing an autonomous octocopter drone.
The drone is loaded with a package by the driver into a cage beneath the drone. The drone grabs the package and flies it to its destination. The drone then flies back to the truck on its own - allowing the driver to continue making other deliveries as the drone returns.
“This test is different than anything we’ve done with drones so far. It has implications for future deliveries, especially in rural locations where our package cars often have to travel miles to make a single delivery,” said Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability. “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 if each of its 66,000 U.S. delivery drivers could save just one mile per day, the company would save $50 million per year.
"Rural delivery routes are the most expensive to serve due to the time and vehicle expenses required to complete each delivery," said UPS on its website. "In this test, the drone made one delivery while the driver continued down the road to make another."
Once the drone returns to the truck, it recharges itself in its dock. Each drone can fly for 30 minutes, carry a 10-pound package, and can reach speeds of around 50 miles per hour.