The experiment, in Lithia Florida, involved launching a drone from the top of a vehicle, delivering its package and returning by itself, all whilst the delivery driver is able to continue driving at the same time.
“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.
Rural delivery routes are the most expensive to serve due to the time and vehicle expenses required to complete each delivery; hence the consideration UPS is giving to an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) option for last-mile type deliveries.
However, this doesn’t mean the end for drivers. According to UPS, drivers are the face of the company, so this isn’t something that will change. It will be a tool to aid them in terms of time and distance. During the test the drones route was preset, but routes could be determined by other sorts of navigation.
Amazon has also experimented with drones. In December 2015 it successfully delivered a tv streaming stick and a bag of popcorn to the garden of a customer with a large garden in Cambridgeshire. This could suggest that this is something they can offer to all their customers going forward, but that would be a premature assumption. At the moment it can only be used for customers with large gardens that live close to the depot. The drones can only fly in daylight and with good weather conditions. Amazon hopes to start expanding this service over the coming months, although it will only work on packages up to 2.6kg.