A Work Horse Group drone that docks on top of a UPS van being tested near Lithia, Florida. SAN FRANCISCO -- Both the drone industry and federal regulators are years away from actual legal drone deliveries in the United States. But that's not stopping companies from testing possibilities, both to get the visual of a drone with their logo out in front of the public and to see what works. UPS was the latest to try something new with drones on Tuesday when it ran a test of a truck-launched drone delivery system for rural areas in Lithia, Fla. The drone-equipped vans would only be used on rural routes, said Mark Wallace, senior vice president for global engineering and sustainability, UPS.
UPS announced today that it will soon deploy 50 electric delivery trucks designed by Workhorse Group Inc. that will cost about the same as traditional, conventionally fueled trucks. They'll have a between-charge range of around 100 miles, will be zero-emission and the first vehicles will be tested in a handful of cities this year. "Electric vehicle technology is rapidly improving with battery, charging and smart grid advances that allow us to specify our delivery vehicles to eliminate emissions, noise and dependence on diesel and gasoline," Carlton Rose, UPS' president of global fleet maintenance and engineering, said in a statement. "With our scale and real-world duty cycles, these new electric trucks will be a quantum leap forward for the purpose-built UPS delivery fleet. The all electric trucks will deliver by day and re-charge overnight."
In the not-too-distant future, Amazon could use a drone to deliver a package from a country warehouse all the way to … a nearby farm. And that, the government said on Tuesday, is about it. The Obama administration green-lit commercial drone flights but said it wasn't ready to let Google and Amazon launch automated drone delivery fleets out across urban areas. The regulations mark the government's first explicit efforts to define the commercial uses for the horde of small, plastic, buzzing aircraft that are invading America's skies. The Federal Aviation Administration said commercial drones are OK so long as the drone and its payload weigh less than 55lb, stay within unaided sight of the pilot and operators pass a test every two years.
In Manhattan's Flatiron Plaza on Monday, children gawked and construction workers tiptoed in curiosity around transportation company Workhorse's product showcase of two futuristic vehicles: the first electric pickup truck, and the Surefly octocopter drone. Workhorse is a midwestern transportation company that specializes in electric trucks, particularly for commercial (not personal) use. It gained attention this past May when it achieved manned flight of its SureFly hybrid helicopter. With eight propellers that provide balance, it's designed more like a drone than a traditional helicopter -- so it's better described as a personal drone octocopter. Also, octocopter is pretty fun to say, so that's what we're going with, OK?! SEE ALSO: SureFly's hybrid electric octocopter drone achieves first manned flight Mashable attended Workhorse's first look preview event for the SureFly octocopter and the W-15 electric pickup truck in Manhattan on Monday.
On Monday, a UPS drone buzzed over fields in Lithia, Florida, to deliver a test package to a rural home. It was launched from the roof of a modified UPS truck and automatically returned to the vehicle after making its drop-off. The idea is that the driver can continue along his or her route while the drone makes a delivery that would otherwise be out of the way. "Imagine a triangular delivery route where the stops are miles apart by road. Sending a drone from a package car to make just one of those deliveries can reduce costly miles driven," said Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president of global engineering, in a press release on Tuesday.