For the past century, UPS has been hard at work refining the art of package delivery. After all, efficiency is the name of the game for the world’s largest package carrier.
On Monday, UPS unveiled its latest innovation in package delivery technology.
In a test conducted near Tampa, Florida, UPS showed off a new hybrid-electric package truck with a drone nest built into its roof. In effect, UPS wants to turn their delivery trucks into drone motherships.
Inside the nest is a Workhorse HorseFly autonomous drone with the ability to fly for 30 minutes and carry 10 pounds worth of packages.
“This is really a vision for the future for us,” UPS senior vice president for engineering and sustainability, Mark Wallace, said in an interview with Business Insider.
The drone will work as a mechanized helper for the driver, reducing the number of miles a driver will need to drive. According to Wallace, UPS can save $50 million a year if everyone of its drivers reduces the length of their delivery routes by one mile.
UPS sees several potential usage cases for its autonomous drones. This ranges from inventory control at warehouses to the delivery of urgent packages such as medical supplies. However, this latest test is geared towards the company’s operations in rural areas where drivers have to cover vast distances between delivery points.
Currently, the technology still in the testing phase and UPS doesn’t have an exact timeline for its introduction into service, Wallace said.
Here’s a closer look at how UPS’s truck-mounted drone works.
First, the driver loads a package into the drone.
After uploading the target address, the driver releases the drone from its roof-mounted nest using an in-truck touchscreen device.
The autonomous drone then heads for its delivery destination.
While the drone is in the air, the driver goes ahead to the next delivery point.
After the delivery is conducted, the drone finds its way back to the package truck.
As the drone docks with the nest, its batteries get recharged and the driver is able to repeat the process.
Here’s an overview of the process.
This article was written by Benjamin Zhang from Business Insider and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.