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When are delivery drones coming? UPS is getting closer

With people practicing social distancing to help fight the spread of the coronavirus, UPS has announced it's working on new package delivery drones.

Wingcopter

With everyone sitting at home and online shopping until they drop, a lot of people are wondering when we'll start getting our packages from those delivery drones everyone is always talking about. Well, it looks like UPS may have your answer, as the company just announced its drone delivery subsidiary UPS Flight Forward is teaming up with German drone-maker Wingcopter to develop its next generation of delivery drones.

The delivery company said in a press release that Wingcopter is a "transport pioneer" with a great track record of delivering goods long distances. Bala Ganesh, vice president of the UPS Advanced Technology Group, said in a statement that this collaboration is about addressing different kinds of drones for different scenarios.

"Drone delivery is not a one-size-fits-all operation," Ganesh said. "Our collaboration with Wingcopter helps pave the way for us to start drone delivery service in new use-cases. UPS Flight Forward is building a network of technology partners to broaden our unique capability to serve customers and extend our leadership in drone delivery."

This is the first time UPS Flight Forward has collaborated with a drone manufacturer, and the companies plan to develop a "diverse fleet of drones with varying capabilities." The Wingcopter drones can take off and land vertically and fly like a plane with fixed-wing forward flight. The drone does this by switching the direction of its rotors using Wingcopter's patented tilt-rotor mechanism.

An artist's visualization of the new drone.Wingcopter

They look damn cool, and the fact they have wings means they'll be able to go faster and travel further distances than a quadcopter delivery drone. Your package could soon be zooming through the air if the companies are able to get these drones approved by regulators.

Tom Plümmer, Wingcopter CEO and co-founder, said they plan to show how they can extend the speed and range of a delivery drone.

"We are proud to partner with UPS, a global giant in delivery and logistics. Together we aspire to extend the speed and reach of package delivery," Plümmer said. "Our vision has always been to leverage technology to improve the lives of people around the world, and the strategic relationship with UPS will further accelerate our growth and global expansion, strengthening our role as an industry leader in drone technology."

As we reported in November, UPS has also tested using quadcopter drones to deliver medication to people in North Carolina from CVS Pharmacy. It sounds like the new drones the company is developing would be used for this kind of thing if they're approved.

See also: Will the coronavirus kill cash? Russia is pushing for more digital payments

UPS obviously isn't the only company getting into the drone delivery business. Amazon's drone delivery program, Prime Air, has been designing and testing delivery drones for years. Jeff Wilke, Amazon CEO of global consumer, said at a conference last June that Amazon would be delivering packages with drones "within months." That didn't happen, and it's not clear when deliveries will start.

Companies are competing to become the first to roll out drone deliveries, but none of them have done it yet. Once a company opens the flood gates, drone deliveries will probably become an ordinary thing.

The Inverse analysis

With everyone worried about coming in contact with someone who has the coronavirus, it'd certainly be nice to have our packages delivered by drones, but that might also mean fewer people will be employed by the company's that deliver our packages. This is so often the case when we're discussing automation: We all want the convenience that comes with automating jobs, but we also want to make sure people don't end up unemployed because of it. Beyond that, it's pretty funny to imagine our packages zooming through the air at high speeds.

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