Excerpt from Wired:
Companies like UPS and Amazon prize efficiency above all, and deploying a fleet of drones from a warehouse in the middle of nowhere wastes time. Making them fly all the way back wastes energy. And you still need trucks, because drones can’t schlep more than a few pounds. But if you put the drones in the truck and fling them at houses to cover the last mile or so, well, then you’re on to something. You’re saving the driver the trouble of parking the truck, getting out, finding the package, and hoofing it to the door. Think of it as a paperboy riding his bike down the street, tossing the newspaper onto each porch.
UPS made a test run Monday in Tampa, Florida. Sid Perrin trundled through a rural neighborhood in a UPS van with an odd lump on the roof. Instead of taking a long driveway to a remote blueberry farm, she put the truck in park, climbed into the back, and placed a package in the belly of a drone. Back in the driver’s seat, she tapped a command on a touch screen. The roof of the truck retracted, the drone took flight, and Perrin continued up the road to her next destination.
IR-LOCK Sensor and LidarLite Rangefinder on UPS delivery drone
The drone, meanwhile, flew a short distance to the house, deposited the package, and found the truck—where it plugged itself into a charger to await its next flight. And damned if it didn’t work.
“A trial like this is important, because it’s not just a drone itself doing something, but all the support processes, and the people,” says Timothy Carone, a physicist and expert on automation at the University of Notre Dame. “As a test, it’s more realistic, because it’s looking at how it all integrates into the business.”
UPS deployed a super-sized version of the consumer drones you already know. It weighs 9.5 pounds, sports eight rotors, and can stay aloft for 30 minutes. The van is a diesel-electric hybrid, and although the driver must come to a stop to dispatch drones, everything else about it works just like any other UPS delivery truck. The setup comes from Workhorse Group, an Ohio company that builds hybrid electric trucks, and the University of Cincinnati. They first showed it off in 2014.
- Tags: Package Delivery