UPS is experimenting drones to deliver packages from their trucks thus saving time looking for a parking. The first trials have taken place in Tampa, FL.
For this first trial UPS used a modified truck that can launch the drone from its roof. The driver stops to load the package into the drone and then sends it out for delivery. The drone flies a mile or so, deposit the package and fly back to the UPS truck roof where it recharges its battery. I guess that in a real service they ay foresee several drones flying out from the truck in parallel serving several clients in the area. That would surely increase the efficiency and save time to the driver.
Now, you might think that saving one mile of driving is not a big deal. Well, according to UPS, saving one mile a day to its 66,000 trucks ends up in a 50 million $ saving per year, and that's quite some money!
The first trial took place in a suburban area where the danger of a mishap during the flight were low. Moving delivery to a urban area with people walking on sidewalks, power lines all over the place and much more is still in the future.
I find this evolution interesting since it is another step in changing the logistic chain, a complex objective given the extreme sophistication of logistic chains. It is also interesting to see the approach of UPS, launching the drone from a delivery truck rather than from a warehouse (as Amazon is planning to do). It is clearly easier and can be achieved sooner. This can lead to the adoption of drones in delivery and the experience will let further expansion down the lane. It may turn out that this approach can accelerate deployment and we might end up seeing a drone landing on our windowsill sooner than expected!