Feb 21 Package delivery company United Parcel
Service Inc tested home delivery by drone in Lithia,
Florida, on Monday, the first step in what the company hopes
will be a move toward more automated delivery.
A drone launched from a UPS car roof, flew autonomously
toward its destination, dropped a package and then returned to
the vehicle, as the driver separately continued on a delivery
The Tampa-area test, which UPS said went as expected, came
less than a month after UPS said it would push forward
investment in automation and technology as the company, along
with rival FedEx Corp, struggles with slimmer margins
from e-commerce business.
"We see this as an exploration into this new technology,"
said John Dodero, vice president of industrial engineering at
The company has conducted drone tests before, and is
weighing other uses for the technology, such as in inventory
control and helping inspect planes and vehicles within hangars
But UPS has no timeline for when drones might be put into
wider use, Dodero said, partly because federal authorities are
still developing regulations on how to use the technology.
UPS sees potential particularly in rural routes, such as in
Monday's test. Cities are dense enough that drivers typically
have deliveries grouped relatively close together.
But rural routes are more spread out, and thus more
expensive. If drones can handle some of those deliveries, the
company can be more efficient along those areas and lower some
costs, Dodero said.
He declined to say whether the company's workforce could be
trimmed by attrition as UPS expands drone delivery.
"We have no idea how all that will play out until we find
out how to integrate them into the business," he said. However,
Dodero added UPS is not looking to use drones as a replacement
"UPS is never looking to replace our UPS drivers," he said,
calling them "the face of our company."
(Reporting by Luciana Lopez; Editing by Alan Crosby)