UPS reportedly building delivery drones - like Amazon - behind closed doors
United Parcel Service has been experimenting with its own version of package carrying drones, according to The Verge. The largest parcel service worldwide is said to have been testing and evaluating different approaches to drone delivery in recent months.
Word of UPS drones comes just after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed Amazon will have its own autonomous drones delivering packages to customers sometime after 2015.
In a statement, UPS wasn't shy talking about drones, but stopped short of confirming anything was coming.
"The commercial use of drones is an interesting technology and we’ll continue to evaluate it," a UPS spokesperson said. "UPS invests more in technology than any other company in the delivery business, and we’re always planning for the future."
Ryan Calo, a law professor specialising in drones, says the first version of the UPS drone would more than likely be man-controlled. They would deliver packages from a major UPS hub at an airport and bring it to a pick-up centre within a city.
Several regulatory hurdles still have to be considered until drones are put into the air by companies. The FAA will release a set of rules for drones in 2015.
The extent of the UPS drones being tested hasn't been detailed. Bezos, on the other hand, was happy to reveal what Amazon has going behind the scenes, when he was on CBS' 60 Minutes on Sunday.
In their current state, Amazon's autonomous drones can deliver a 5lb package up to 10 miles away from an Amazon fulfilment centre. Amazon has 96 such warehouses scattered throughout the US to speed up product shipping times. The drones wouldn't be able to handle every product or to deliver to all addresses, but in urban areas it could prove useful.
"The hardest challenge of making this happen is going to be demonstrating to the standards of the FAA that this is a safe thing to do," Bezos told host Charlie Rose. "I don't want anyone to think this is just around the corner. This is years of additional work from this point. I'm an optimist - four or five years, I think so."
It only makes sense for a company so invested into shipping like UPS to be experimenting with flying drones. But if industry analysts are to be believed, there's still quite awhile before drones will be flying over neighborhoods delivering packages.