UPS to Make Use of Drones Soon

A recent article in the Herald Tribune drew attention to the exciting partnership between UPS and CyPhyWorks. Based out of Danvers, Mass., CyPhyWorks has, until now, been making a name for itself in the security sector. The company’s surveillance drones have been attracting significant interest due to their impressive capabilities, which include conducting airborne reconnaissance for several hours at a time, all the while streaming back data that can’t be intercepted or jammed.

Now, it seems, their drone technology has caught the eye of big players outside the security sphere – most notably, that of UPS. United Parcel Service, Inc. – the world’s largest package delivery company, headquartered in Atlanta – has recognized the value already provided by CyPhyWorks technology, and is keen to adapt it to improve their own delivery capabilities.

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Last Thursday, from the coastal town of Marblehead, Mass., employees of both companies watched as a CyPhyWorks drone was launched on a UPS test mission. The plan was for the drone to follow a pre-programed flight path to deliver an inhaler to a location on Children’s Island, three miles out into the Atlantic. The mission was a success and was greeted with enthusiasm.

CyPhyWorks head honcho Helen Greiner, was reported as saying that such test flights would be used to accumulate cost information and engineering feedback, which would allow the company to provide improved value to the UPS network. The tech founder and MIT graduate is no stranger to the quest for innovative solutions – in 1990 she co-founded the military robotics developer iRobot. Such experience has given her a practical view of the role drones will play in delivery networks:

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“Drones aren’t going to take the place of all delivery, but there are places where you have inaccessible location, an emergency situation where the infrastructure is down, you want or need the package quickly — these are the areas where drones will be the best way to get a package to a location,” Greiner told the Herald Tribune.

As with all technological advances, though, aerial drone delivery will need to wait for legislators to catch up in order for its potential to be realized. New FAA regulations restrict operational areas of commercial drones to the operator’s line of sight, and don’t allow them to fly over anyone who isn’t involved in their operation. UPS can only get itself as ready as possible to exploit regulation changes when they eventually happen. With Wal-Mart and Amazon joining the list of companies preparing drone technology for commercial use, that looks like it’s just a matter of time.



Andrew Maxwell

Andrew is a former journalist who now works as a freelance writer specializing in tech and gadgets. He currently resides in Thailand.

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