American company UPS is testing a drone-launching delivery truck that it hopes will make its parcel service more efficient in rural locations.
A test delivery that took place in Florida on Tuesday – and which is shown in a video released by the company – saw a drone autonomously drop off a package and then return to the vehicle while the driver continued along a route.
The company’s senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability, Mark Wallace, said the test was a “big step” for UPS in terms of its efficiency and sustainability.
“This test is different than anything we’ve done with drones so far,” he said. “It has implications for future deliveries, especially in rural locations where our package cars often have to travel miles to make a single delivery.”
“This is a big step toward bolstering efficiency in our network and reducing our emissions at the same time,” he added.
While it claims to have been testing automation and drone technologies “for years”, UPS maintained that the unmanned flying vehicles will not replace drivers, and will instead work alongside them.
“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 that stem from the growth of e-commerce.”
UPS isn’t the first company to propose drones as a delivery method. Online retailer Amazon unveiled a video of its PrimeAir delivery drones in action in 2015 – claiming that the service will be able to deliver packages 30 minutes after they were ordered.
Google also published a video showing tests of its own drone service called Project Wing in 2014, and more recently Mercedes-Benz unveiled its prototype for a drone-equipped delivery van.