UPS Now Launching Delivery Drones from Its Brown Vans

What can Brown do for you...apart from help usher in an era of drone-based delivery services?

UPS

The world took another step towards its seemingly-inevitable future filled with flying robots dropping off items at people's doorsteps this week. UPS began testing a new drone-based delivery service that launches unmanned cargo copters from the roof of one of the company's ubiquitous brown vans. 

UPS tested the new system on Monday, the company announced in a press release. The drone delivery system and hybrid electric van were both developed by Ohio-based Workhorse Group, and designed to work together from the get. The HorseFly octocopter is designed to dock in a covered garage on the roof of the truck; when the driver needs to send it on a mission, he loads a parcel of up to 10 pounds into a cage the drone lowers into the truck through a hatch, then tasks it with a delivery location and launches it using a touchscreen in the cab.  

UPS deliveries by drone could revolutionize rural package services

While the United Parcel Service has dallied with drone delivery experiments in the past, the latest round of test is designed to test out the practical applications for such a system in rural areas. Sparsely-populated zones are currently some of the least cost-effective places for UPS drop-offs; the company says a drone-based delivery system could vastly improve the profitability of operating in these areas.

"Imagine a triangular delivery route where the stops are miles apart by road. Sending a drone from a package car to make just one of those deliveries can reduce costly miles driven," UPS senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability Mark Wallace said in a statement. "This is a big step toward bolstering efficiency in our network and reducing our emissions at the same time.”

But UPS says those friendly folks in the brown shorts won't be replaced by T-800s anytime soon. "Drivers are the face of our company, and that won’t change,” Wallace said. "What’s exciting is the potential for drones to aid drivers at various points along their routes, helping them save time and deliver on increasing customer service needs."

The company released video of the new drone-based delivery system in action, which gives a handy overview of how the system works. 

UPS also released a 360º video of the drone in action, should you happen to have a browser that supports such things.