March 30, 2015

UPS Considers Delivery Drones Too

ups delivery drones

Not so fast Amazon! Earlier this week, the ecommerce giant claimed it is planning to unleash a swarm of flying package delivery drones at some point in the future.

While some may still consider the idea silly and impractical, one of Amazon’s biggest delivery partners apparently does not.

The buzz on the Web suggests UPS, which handles much of Amazon’s current delivery along with FedEx, has also been testing flying drones.

A spokesman for UPS told The Verge recently:

“The commercial use of drones is an interesting technology and we’ll continue to evaluate it. UPS invests more in technology than any other company in the delivery business, and we’re always planning for the future.”

The UPS vision for flying drones in the package delivery process seems quite different, however. One expert suggests the company is much more likely to use these vehicles to make deliveries from airport to distribution hubs, media sources report.

Earlier this week, Chris Ciaccia of The Street, speculated UPS and FedEx would not sit still and watch a major customer cut them out.

FedEx has apparently also looked at unmanned aerial delivery.

Some Still Think It’s Crazy

Still others maintain the idea is simply impractical and won’t save money or improve efficiency at all.

Marcus Wohlsen of Wired insists drone delivery doesn’t make sense for Amazon because:

  • Amazon distribution centers are too far from major population areas to make 30 minute delivery feasible.
  • Moving these million square foot distribution centers closer to urban areas where land is more expensive would be incredibly costly offsetting the supposed savings of drone delivery.
  • It would take something like 120 drone flights to deliver the number of packages carried in a single UPS delivery truck.
  • Problems with messed up orders and possible liability seem pretty insurmountable at the moment.

Instead, Wohlsen insists Amazon’s announcement had more to do with an effort to dominate the news cycle. The announcement broke in time for Cyber Monday, one of the most important shopping days of the year.

And others in the Small Business Trends community have suggested additional ulterior motives.

Lower Costs Are Good For Business

Whatever the outcome, small businesses are probably better off with shippers like UPS and FedEx also looking at cutting costs.

Lower costs and higher efficiency for these companies means small businesses that need to ship to customers won’t be left out in the cold.

Octocopter Drone Photo via Shutterstock


Shawn Hessinger - Editor

Shawn Hessinger Shawn Hessinger is the Editor for Small Business Trends. He is a journalist and social media networker with more than a decade of experience in the traditional newspaper business before moving to the digital world. He was the former community manager of BizSugar and the former community editor at AllAnalytics, a site dedicated to professionals in the business intelligence and analytics community.

9 Reactions

  1. Wait, UPS have actually started testing flying drones? I assumed this whole drone thing was just at the concept stage.

    I think it’s a cool concept on paper, but on the other hand, there’s something about it that I find scary and uncomfortable.

    • I have said this on the Amazon drone before. It has a lot of security risks. It is not like a man who can protect the package. It is at risk of being stolen and the package getting deformed. I cannot believe that other companies are considering it already.

      • Sadly, it doesn’t surprise me other companies want in on it. To them, it’s cost efficient (or potentially so). Anything that presents that is worth looking into from their point of view, I guess. I just hope they don’t place it above risk, all for the sake of saving money.

  2. Well, I will say that using large drones to fly between hubs and distribution centers makes more sense than onesy-twosy deliveries. There are some large drones. Like this one:

  3. If UPS will be able to pull this through, well then welcome to the future!! I think it’s a great idea. But of course, there’s a lot of security risks here, but if they will be able to close all gaps, then this will be something that everybody can make use of.

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