Companies like Amazon are going all-in on drone deliveries and have already shown off warehouses that send packages out to customers exclusively via drone. For delivery companies like UPS, the idea of converting operations to rely exclusively on drones is laughable, but that doesn’t mean they won’t find a way to utilize the new technology to streamline the delivery process.
This week, UPS tested out a delivery drone concept that doesn’t so much do away with its iconic brown box trucks as augment them.
The test was conducted using a specially equipped UPS delivery truck which has a drone compartment built right into its roof. When the driver stops to deliver a package, the drone can be sent out to deliver one to a nearby location as well. UPS used the example of a rural delivery where sending a driver and truck down a long, winding road would be less efficient than sending the drone to deliver the package instead.
Once the drone has completed its delivery it automatically docks with the truck once again, and long arms grab and situate the device so that it can be recharged for the next stop. The drone is capable of carrying packages as heavy as ten pounds, which is double the five pound weight limit of Amazon’s initial drone delivery tests.
Due to current FAA regulations which require drones to remain within visual of its operator — and avoid flying over buildings or people — even UPS’s modest drone ambitions have some serious limitations. However, there’s hope that those restrictions will be made a bit more workable in the future.