The HorseFly UAV Delivery drone, which was developed by Workhorse, resides in a compartment within the roof of UPS’ iconic brown delivery vehicle. A trap door within the ceiling allows the UPS driver to access the drone’s bottom-mounted delivery cage, into which they can place a small package.
So, while the driver is off on foot making delivers, the drone can fly a few blocks (or more) down the road to deliver a package “off the beaten path” and then return back to the delivery truck to be resupplied for the next delivery.
“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.”
According to UPS, if each of its delivery drivers were able to reduce their routes by just one mile per day, the company could save more than $50 million per year. UPS also says that rural deliveries are the most expensive routes that its 66,000 drivers travail each and every day, so any way to cut down on miles driven is a big plus for the company.
In case you were wondering, UPS says that drivers don’t have to worry about their jobs [for now], as the delivery drones would be deployed to make their jobs easier (and add to the company’s bottom line).
UPS will be going head-to-head with Amazon, which is also looking to cut its shipping costs through both traditional and untraditional methods. Amazon has leased its own fleet of cargo aircraft and purchased long-haul trucks to cut out the middleman. It also employs “citizen drivers” to deliver Amazon Prime Now packages. And the company is far along in the development aerial drones that are capable of delivering small orders to customers.