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UPS tests drone delivery of urgent packages in the US

The delivery company is so far focusing its research on using drones to deliver urgent goods like medicine in hard-to-reach locations.

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UPS teamed up with CyPhy to test a drone delivery on September 22, 2016.

Brian Smith

UPS on Friday announced that it has started testing the use of drones for urgent deliveries in difficult-to-access locations within the US.

On Thursday, working with the drone-maker CyPhy, UPS successfully staged a mock delivery of an asthma inhaler from Beverly, Massachusetts to Children's Island, where the YMCA runs a day camp. The island, three miles off the coast, is not accessible by car.

As companies like Amazon gear up for more general commercial deliveries, UPS has so far focused its drone delivery experiments on reaching remote locations in time-sensitive situations. Earlier this year, when the company announced a partnership with the robotics firm Zipline to deliver critical medical supplies across Rwanda.

"Our focus is on real-world applications that benefit our customers," Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability, said in a statement. "We think drones offer a great solution to deliver to hard-to-reach locations in urgent situations where other modes of transportation are not readily available."

UPS also has been testing the use of drones inside its warehouses, for tasks like assessing inventory.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)'s initial drone regulations, which went into effect on Aug. 29, effectively prohibit commercial drone deliveries, since drones must stay within the pilot's line of sight and cannot fly directly over people. However, the FAA is working with private companies and other entities to develop broader rules. Captain Houston Mills, UPS Airlines' director of safety, was recently appointed to the FAA's new drone advisory committee.