Amazon Prime Is Not Alone; UPS Experimenting With Drone Delivery

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    Amazon Prime-Air-1While Amazon.com made waves this week with a video for its Amazon Prime 30-minute drone delivery service, they aren’t the only company planning on taking to the air in the near future.

    Representatives for Atlanta-based UPS say the company has been experimenting with its own version of flying parcel carriers and plans to unveil the service option in the next few years as well.

    Amazon’s Jeff Bezons told CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday night that his company would be unleashing a fleet of unmanned aircraft, likely by 2015 and the company released a video that has since gone viral of what that service might look like.

    Technology website The Verge reports that sources familiar with UPS’s plans say the delivery giant has been testing and evaluating different approaches to drone delivery.

    “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,” a UPS spokesman told the website.

    Industry experts aren’t surprised, The Verge reports.

    “I would be shocked if a company like UPS wasn’t considering this,” said 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.”

    UPS could offer something similar to Amazon’s Prime Air, or the company might use drones to help move packages around its own warehouses.

    Unlike Amazon’s very public display of what drone delivery could look like, UPS may be keeping its plan private “because any drone delivery project is years away from being legal and operational.”

    Some industry insiders suggest Bezos may have “perfectly timed” announcing Amazon’s plans to coincide with Cyber Monday, driving tons of free publicity to Amazon on the biggest online shopping day of the year. Cyber Monday shopping was up 20 percent this year, according to CNN.

    Though customers are unlikely to see anything in 2013 or 2014, drone delivery may not be that far away from becoming reality. Colin Guinn, the North American chief executive officer for drone manufacturer DJI, told The Verge, “A company like Amazon or UPS could have a safe, operational fleet in 18-24 months.”

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