Drones & Drivers Join Forces for UPS Deliveries

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Ordering clothes, electronics and other items from sites like Amazon and eBay is a great way to enjoy the convenience of online shopping, but no one likes to wait for their packages to be delivered.

Companies like Amazon have started to explore the world of drone deliveries for small, lightweight packages, and now UPS has started to take the first steps, too. Will you see your UPS packages delivered by drones soon?

Starting With Drone Tests

UPS has officially delivered its first package by drone in a test flight. The drone rests on the top of a specially designed UPS delivery truck, and packages can be loaded onto the drone from a hatch in the roof of the truck. This provides the drones with more range than they would be able to achieve if they were being launched from a fixed location.

These tests are designed to expand rural deliveries that might be far off of the regular delivery routes. Instead of driving the delivery truck off the beaten path, using up extra fuel, the driver can just send out the drone to deliver the package and continue on with their route. The drone catches up with the driver later on their route, so they don’t have to worry about waiting for the delivery or going back to retrieve the drone.

More Than a Marketing Stunt

People perceived drones deliveries as just a marketing stunt for quite a while, before Google delivered a bunch of Chipotle burritos by drone, and both Amazon and JD.com started deploying their drone fleets overseas.

UPS has found that reducing their routes by one mile could save the company upwards of $50 million every single year. Utilizing drones for rural routes, where a driver might have to drive multiple miles out of their way for a single package, could reduce costs dramatically.

Not Quite Ready Yet

While these drones might have had their maiden voyage, they’re not quite ready to deliver your Amazon packages just yet.

First, during the test flights, the drone had to operate within line of sight of the operator, as per current FAA regulations. Though delivery services in full capacity would likely be exempt since they are programmed autonomously, there isn’t any air-traffic control structure in place for these autonomous drones. That would need to be in place before delivery drones could be launched full scale, and it could be at least a few years before that happens.

Second, one of the trials didn’t go as well as they were hoping. During the second test, the drone glitched, tried to abort its launch and ended up nearly crushed.

The Future of the Delivery Drone

The FAA is still trying to iron out all the rules for commercial drone use, especially when you’re talking about drones that will be operating out of sight of their launch points. In general, though, it appears that the general public is in favor of drone deliveries as long as they are done safely and in such as way that the chance of failure or injury is reduced.

You don’t need to watch the skies just yet for your latest Amazon or eBay delivery, but it probably won’t be too long before you can order something small and have it delivered by drone. All we’re really waiting on right now is for the FAA to figure out the best way to regulate commercial drone usage. Once that is done, you’ll probably see Amazon and UPS drones delivering all sorts of packages.

If Google has their way, you might even be able to order your favorite burritos to be delivered hot and fresh to your front door. Drone deliveries are definitely the future of online commerce, so it’s only a matter of time before they finally make their way into our skies.