UPS researching delivery drones that could compete with Amazon’s Prime Air
In some ways, say industry experts, this is no surprise. “I would be shocked if a company like UPS wasn’t considering this,” says Ryan Calo, a law professor specializing in drones and robotics. “If you want to compete in logistics and delivery, drones and unmanned robots have to be part of the conversation about where things are headed.”
So far UPS has kept quiet about its plans, perhaps because any drone delivery project is years away from being legal and operational. For Jeff Bezos, on the other hand — who admitted that his drone fleet probably won’t be available for some time— the news was perfectly timed to hit on Cyber Monday, driving tons of free publicity to Amazon on the biggest online shopping day of the year.
UPS has a number of different ways it might utilize drones. It could offer something similar to Amazon’s Prime Air, or it might use them to help move packages around its own warehouses. Calo was skeptical of the video offered up by Amazon, where a drone drops off a package in a family’s suburban driveway. “I think from both a tech and a policy perspective, delivering to consumers in residential areas is going to be tough thing to accomplish any time soon,” says Calo. “But a company like UPS could use drones to bring packages quickly and cheaply from a major airport or city to pick-up centers in more remote locations, speeding up delivery for a lot of customers.”