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Supply Chain Industry Updates

Grandparents Day is Sept. 12 This Year. Why Not Send Them a Drone?

Verizon Skyward video

If it’s known for anything, the Villages of Florida has gained attention for being among the fastest-growing communities in the United States and for the vociferous politics of its large senior population.

But now the community in central Florida is getting attention as the proving ground (or should that be airspace?) for a major drone delivery test project. Skyward, a Verizon company, and UPS Flight Forward this week announced they are collaborating to deliver retail products with drones connected to Verizon 4G LTE, as well as performing 5G testing and integration for delivery. 

UPS is no Johnny-come-lately to drone technology. Its UPS Flight Forward business unit said it has operated more than 3,800 successful drone delivery flights since 2019. “But in 2020, drone delivery emerged as much more than rapid delivery of essential healthcare items,” the company said in a statement. “During the global pandemic, it provided high-risk seniors a rapid and contactless delivery option to remain healthy at home.”

The partnership wants to see how it can improve drone deliveries to residential addresses, including the homes of senior citizens — a test audience that is certain to let the companies know if they are in any way dissatisfied. “Using Verizon’s 5G and Skyward, we’ll be able to transform the delivery experience — more personal, more on-demand and with the same safety, efficiency and reliability our customers trust today,” promised Bala Ganesh, vice president of the UPS Advanced Technology Group.

Verizon, UPS Flight Forward and Skyward started testing 4G LTE in delivery drones last year to demonstrate cellular reliability and performance at altitude. The companies described this as the next step in drone evolution.

“We will need the ability to manage and support multiple drones, flying simultaneously, dispatched from a centralized location, operating in a secure and safe environment,” said Carol B. Tomé, CEO of UPS. “To do this at scale, alongside Verizon and Skyward, we’ll need the power of 5G.”

Explained Mariah Scott, Skyward president: “The low latency of 5G and edge computing is ideal for monitoring air traffic in and out of a busy logistics hub, especially those using mixed fleets of autonomous vehicles like drones, trucks and planes.”