Working with Danvers, Mass.-based drone company CyPhy Works, UPS has begun testing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for package deliveries.
UPS says its goal is to use the technology to make commercial deliveries to remote or difficult-to-access locations.
Testing began yesterday: The companies staged a mock delivery of urgently needed medicine from Beverly, Mass., to Children’s Island, which is about three miles off the Atlantic coast. In the mock scenario, the UAS successfully carried an asthma inhaler to a child at a camp on the island, which is not reachable by automobile.
The UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund previously invested in CyPhy to gather information about drone uses and capabilities.
“Our focus is on real-world applications that benefit our customers,” states Mark Wallace, UPS’ senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability. “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.”
UPS notes that the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) recently implemented UAS rules are a step in the right direction for the expanded use of drones in commercial applications. In addition, the company says, UPS Airlines’ director of safety, Captain Houston Mills, was recently appointed to the FAA’s new Drone Advisory Committee.
“We’re thrilled to partner with UPS in this endeavor,” says Helen Greiner, CyPhy’s founder and chief technology officer. “Drone technology used in this way can save lives and deliver products and services to places that are difficult to reach by traditional transit infrastructures.”
The CyPhy drone used in Thursday’s test is the Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (PARC) system. The battery-powered drone flies autonomously; in turn, very little user training is required. The durable aircraft also has night vision and features secure communications that cannot be intercepted or disrupted, says CyPhy.
“UPS has a history of innovation that reaches back more than a hundred years,” Wallace adds. “UPS uniformed employees remain a vital connection to our customers, but tests like these reveal a bridge to the future of customer service and urgent package delivery.”