UPS is testing the use of drones for urgent deliveries, such as medicine to remote locations.
While Amazon and UPS aren’t likely to launch drone delivery programs in cities just yet, using drones to deliver urgent items in remote areas offers a promising solution to a long-standing logistics problem.
“Our focus is on real-world applications that benefit our customers,” said Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability in a press release announcing the tests. “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.”
Following the FAA’s recent guidelines for drones, UPS began piloting an emergency delivery program for remote areas. The first flight was having a drone fly 3 miles to drop off a small package containing a mock asthma inhaler to a summer camp on an island in the Atlantic Ocean near Boston.
In the pilot flight, the mock situation involved a young camper who needed an asthma inhaler urgently. However, the summer camp isn’t accessible by car, so using traditional delivery methods might mean the inhalers get there too late. But by using a drone, the camper had the inhaler in less than 10 minutes. A drone delivery system offers a viable solution to remote hospitals and individuals living in rural areas who need medicine or other supplies quickly.
The flight took the drone, branded in UPS colors and logos, eight minutes and was conducted in partnership with CyPhy Works, a drone maker in which UPS holds a financial interest.
According to UPS, Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (PARC), a CyPhy Works-produced drone, was used in the test flight. The drone is battery-powered and flies itself, very little user training is required. It’s also well designed for deliveries in rough terrain as it’s extremely durable, has night vision, and features secure communications that cannot be intercepted or disrupted.
Though the FAA’s recently released guidelines on drones just made this flight possible, UPS has had a long-standing interest in drone technology. UPS has used drones in its warehouses to check high storage racks and confirm stock. The company is also looking to expand its drone program to deliver humanitarian aid to hard-to-reach parts of the world.