UPS tests drone delivery to island off the Atlantic coast

By Patrick C. Miller | September 29, 2016

UPS entered the drone delivery market last week when it partnered with drone manufacturer CyPhy Works to stage a mock delivery of medicine to an island off the coast of Massachusetts.

UPS announced last Friday that it had begun testing the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to make commercial deliveries of packages to remote or difficult to reach locations.

“We’re thrilled to partner with UPS in this endeavor,” said 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.”

On Sept. 22, a CyPhy Works drone conducted a mock delivery of urgently needed medicine from Beverly, Massachusetts, to Children’s Island—about three miles off the Atlantic coast. According to UPS, the drone flight advances an investment made by the UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund in CyPhy to gather information about drone uses and capabilities.

“Our focus is on real-world applications that benefit our customers,” said 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.”

With the release of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 rule last month that allows the use of small UAS for commercial applications, UPS said it believes the new rules are a step in the right direction and intends to work with regulators. The FAA recently appointed Capt. Houston Mills, UPS Airlines director of safety, to its Drone Advisory Committee.

The CyPhy drone used for test is the Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (PARC) system. The battery-powered drone flies itself, requiring minimal user training. According to CyPhy Works, the drone is extremely durable, has night vision and features secure communications that cannot be intercepted or disrupted.

UPS and CyPhy flew the PARC from Beverly to Children’s Island to test the viability of using the drone to make a time-critical delivery. In the mock scenario, the drone successfully carried an asthma inhaler to a child at a camp on the island, which is not reachable by automobile.

“UPS has a history of innovation that reaches back more than a hundred years,” Wallace said. “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.”


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