UPS has big plans for drone delivery, and it’s taking two key steps to put them into action. First, it’s building its own dedicated subsidiary focused entirely on drone delivery, called UPS Flight Forward, and it’s seeking FAA approval to operate its drones over populated areas, during nighttime hours and when not within view of a human operator, all of which are currently required for general commercial drone operation.
UPS will seek to gain the same certification that Alphabet’s Wing received back in April, which is a status that others, including Uber Eats and Amazon Air, have applied for but not yet received, as noted by The Verge.
One of the biggest shipping companies in the world, UPS basically needs to have some kind of play in the drone delivery field, whether or not that actually ends up being the future of last-mile logistics. Amazon, as mentioned, is seeking similar approval, and has been very aggressive in terms of their marketing and promotion of their drone delivery efforts.
Earlier this year, UPS partnered with drone startup Matternet to pilot medical sample deliveries in North Carolina, and the company demonstrated drones delivering packages from trucks back in 2017 in Florida, although the tests didn’t go as smoothly as UPS probably would’ve liked.
It’s not clear exactly how long it will take UPS to get approval, but the carrier seems confident it’ll be before year’s end, at which time we might see more in terms of actual commercial delivery service by drone rolling out.