Although it’s unlikely that economics could justify the replacement of all couriers with commercial drones in the near-term, UPS and its partner CyPhy Works have demonstrated the feasibility of using UAVs’ to make remote deliveries in difficult-to-access locations with a recent successful test.
Yesterday, on 22 September, the pair launched a CyPhy Works PARC (Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications) drone loaded with an asthma inhaler, and sent it on a 3-mile journey from Beverly, Massachusetts, to Children’s Island off the Atlantic coast – a destination unreachable by UPS’ fleet of brown trucks. The PARC is battery-powered, flies itself and is equipped with night vision so that it can operate even after traditional delivery hours.
Despite the successful delivery, Mark Wallace, UPS senior VP of global engineering reiterated that such drone flights aren’t intended to replace drivers, but rather help make deliveries that otherwise would be impossible. “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. We are continuously exploring ways to improve our network to efficiently support our customers’ demanding requirements,” said Wallace.
Such mock-trials were once difficult for companies to conduct within the borders of the United States because up until recently the US FAA required drone operators to submit an exemption request for each test. The exemptions were processed manually, and often took months to issue. This changed last month when the FAA clarified how commercial drones like PARC would be regulated with the release of its “Part 107 guidelines.” Under Part 107, exemptions are only required for operations which fall outside the defined parameters of permitted operations (e.g., flying above 400 feet, or during the night). We covered the guidelines in greater detail here in Part 107 and the future of drone pizza deliveries.
UPS says of Part 107, “these rules are a step in the right direction,” and that the company “intends to keep working closely with regulators to stay on the right path”.
And now for a B-roll video from UPS Inc., of the PARC delivery:
Lastly, we invite you to join us at the Cargo Facts Symposium in Miami, 10 – 12 October, where panel discussions will explore the future of airfreight. To register, or for more information, go to CargoFactsSymposium.com.