UPS tests drones for use in de­liv­ery sys­tem

Baltimore Sun - - BUSINESS MARYLAND - By Rodrique Ngowi

MARBLEHEAD, Mass. — One of the world’s largest pack­age de­liv­ery com­pa­nies is step­ping up ef­forts to in­te­grate drones into its sys­tem.

UPS has part­nered with ro­bot-maker CyPhy Works to test the use of drones to make com­mer­cial de­liv­er­ies to re­mote or dif­fi­cult-toac­cess lo­ca­tions.

The com­pa­nies be­gan test­ing the drones Thurs­day, when they launched one from the sea­side town of Marblehead. The drone flew on a pro­grammed route for 3 miles over the At­lantic Ocean to de­liver an in­haler at Chil­dren’s Is­land.

The suc­cess­ful land­ing was greeted by ju­bi­lant shouts from CyPhy Works and UPS em­ploy­ees on the is­land to wit­ness the test.

CyPhy Works founder He­len Greiner, who pre­vi­ously co-founded robot­maker iRobot, said the drone tests with UPS al­low her com­pany to gather en­gi­neer­ing and cost in­forma- tion and then work with UPS to look at where drones can add the most value to UPS’ net­work.

But the ro­bot-maker doesn’t see drones re­plac­ing trucks any­time soon.

“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 loca- tion,” Greiner said.

But re­vised federal avi­a­tion reg­u­la­tions don’t per­mit com­mer­cial drones to fly over peo­ple not in­volved in their op­er­a­tions and re­quire them to re­main within line of sight of their op­er­a­tors at all times, ren­der­ing com­mer­cial de­liv­er­ies im­pos­si­ble.

Those re­stric­tions aren’t keep­ing drone-mak­ers and their part­ners from de­vel­op­ing tech­nol­ogy for com­mer­cial de­liv­er­ies while they work with reg­u­la­tors to tweak ex­ist­ing rules.

RODRIQUE NGOWI/AP

UPS has part­nered with ro­bot-maker CyPhy Works to test the use of drones to make com­mer­cial de­liv­er­ies of pack­ages to re­mote or dif­fi­cult-to-ac­cess lo­ca­tions.

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