UPS_drone_test_webIn a move that could have implications for the last mile delivery of aftermarket parts to locations off the beaten track, global package delivery company UPS has tested a drone in the US that launches from the top of a UPS package van to autonomously deliver packages.

According to the company the drone returns to the vehicle while the delivery driver continues along its set route to make a separate delivery. UPS conducted the test on Monday (February 20th) in Lithia, Florida this week.

“This test is different than anything we’ve done with drones so far. It has implications for future deliveries, especially in rural locations where our package cars often have to travel miles to make a single delivery,” said Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability. “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. This is a big step toward bolstering efficiency in our network and reducing our emissions at the same time.”

The drone and the van used in the test were made by Workhorse Group, a US-based producer of medium-duty electric delivery vehicles and fully integrated truck-launched delivery drones. This week’s test involved a HorseFly UAV Delivery system, which can charge while it is docked, has a 30-minute flight time and can carry packages weighing up to 4.5kg.

UPS also is utilising drones to check inventory on high storage shelves in its warehouses.

This latest test in autonomous last mile delivery follows Mercedes-Benz Vans' involvement in a number of pilot projects in Europe this year to test the use ground-based, last-mile autonomous delivery robots.