UPS wants to use drones to deliver critical supplies to remote areas, and if Thursday’s mock run with CyPhy’s flying tech is any indication, it’s ready to start doing so.
The companies said this morning that the experiment was a success: CyPhy’s drone was able to deliver an asthma inhaler from Beverly, Massachusetts to a child camping on Children’s Island, which UPS is unable to reach with its fleet of delivery trucks.
This test is part of UPS’s plan to “deliver humanitarian aid in hard-to-reach parts of the world.” Other companies are working to address similar problems, like Zipline’s blood-delivery program in Rwanda, that uses small fixed-wing drones to deliver blood to remote clinics for transfusions. UPS also plans to use drones for commercial deliveries, provided the Federal Aviation Administration decides to relax its restrictions on drones so companies are able to use them a little more freely.
The White House offered companies like UPS some hope in that regard in August when it announced that the federal government is trying to gauge the public’s interest in delivery drones and how they can be allowed to fly without such strict supervision. For now, though, delivery drones are mostly limited to small tests.
But that hasn’t stopped companies from preparing for the future. AT&T has partnered with Qualcomm to research drones, for example, and drones now deliver Chipotle to Virginia Tech students thanks to Alphabet’s Project Wing.
CyPhy’s Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (PARC) system was used in these tests. “The battery-powered drone flies itself, so very little user training is required,” UPS said. “It is extremely durable, has night vision and features secure communications that cannot be intercepted or disrupted.” Its hope is to be able to use more of these drones to make deliveries in the future.