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UPS and Workhorse Group test drones for COVID-19 fight

UPS partnered with Workhorse Group, Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), and DroneUp to complete various tests to see how drones can be used to assist medical professionals in the fight against COVID-19. The tests evaluated the commercial drone industry’s ability to step up and produce drones to aid the U.S. healthcare system.

A big part of the tests is the data the companies have been able to gather on the effectiveness of drones. The data and key findings will go into a report to the White House about taking on COVID-19 with drones.

What they tested

The tests took place over a three-day period earlier in the month at St. Paul’s College in Virginia and a Brunswick County facility where various delivery conditions were able to be simulated. The tests focused on deliveries to residential and commercial areas with the following being at the forefront of the tests:

  • Safe operational capacities based on existing technologies, policies, personnel, and environmental restrictions
  • Airspace de-confliction and operator safety policies necessary for peak optimal capacity
  • Processes, policies and training necessary to conduct efficient, safe, and effective delivery operations during day and night
  • Proposed policy changes that would further enable the use of these autonomous airborne advanced technologies

The drones will be used to transport lab specimens along with medical products. This could include COVID-19 vaccines once they are ready for public use. Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer, had the following to share on the effectiveness of drones in delivery.

“We’ve proven through ongoing commercial drone delivery programs that effective drone delivery of medical products is faster than conventional ground-based transportation. Drones offer a low-touch option for delivery of lab specimens and medical products that could make a significant impact in an urgent response application.”

Tom Walker, DroneUp CEO, stated that there are many questions surrounding drones and their use in the COVID-19 crisis.

“Many in the public – along with federal, state and local officials – are asking how drones can be used in this time of crisis. Rather than speculate, it is incumbent upon our industry to conduct operationally-based exercises that produce factual data and lessons learned to ensure we can respond safely, effectively and efficiently when called upon.”

Duane Hughes, Workhorse Group CEO, shared a short statement, that read in part:

“We’ve made hundreds of autonomous drone deliveries in the National Airspace System over the last four years using our proprietary technology combined with our all-electric delivery vehicles. We have a comprehensive understanding of the benefits provided by a drone delivery when speed counts.”

Photo: UPS



Avatar for Josh Spires Josh Spires

Josh started in the drone community in 2012 with a drone news Twitter account. Over the years Josh has gained mass exposure from his aerial photography work and spends his days writing drone content for DroneDJ as well as pursuing his business.