Delivery Robots, UPS Drones, and Amazon Prime to the Moon?


Last Friday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, signed a law that effective July 1, 2017 will allow for the use of autonomous delivery robots in the State of Virginia.

This first in the nation law limits the delivery vehicle or robot to 50 lbs and a speed of 10 MPH per hour and it must be in full control by the delivery company via remote monitoring.

The robots will be able the use the State’s sidewalks and crosswalks to make deliveries from their origin to a customer’s address, potentially making for an interesting commute…

The law was supported by eCommerce heavy weights such as Amazon and Grubhub with technical advise by Estonian robotics company Starship Technologies. Other players in the autonomous delivery system are looking to enter the Virginia market as well.

No word yet if Virginia will follow up with specialized license plates that say “First in Nation for Robot Delivery”, a spin-off on North Carolina’s “First in Flight” plates or Ohio’s “Birthplace of Aviation” plates.

UPS Testing Drone Delivery From Their Delivery Trucks

UPS is testing drones to use from their delivery trucks in a departure of other drone testing such as Amazon that experiment with delivery from warehouses. A first proof of concept test was conducted a few weeks ago in Florida.

UPS already famous for its minimize left turn policy when designing delivery routes hopes to add drones to portions of their fleet to minimize driving time.

According to UPS, saving only 1 mile per delivery truck per year will save the company up to $50 million. This is especially important in rural delivery areas where stops can be miles apart.

The test system works as imagined, a UPS driver inside the truck loads a package into the cage and presses a button on a touch screen, sending the drone on a preset autonomous route to an address.

The battery-powered drone recharges while it’s docked. It has a 30-minute flight time and can carry a package weighing up to 10 pounds.

UPS sees this as a development to complement driver’s routes, in essence the driver can dispatch drone deliveries to more remote addresses while continuing to make standard deliveries in more populated areas.

Drones are not new to UPS, but this is the first real test for them of non-urgent type delivery aimed at providing more capacity for residential eCommerce deliveries.


Maybe not Prime yet, but Jeff Bezos who founded Blue Origin space technology company, and is working in cooperation with NASA to develop the privately funded New Glenn reusable rocket for space station and long range flight, is aiming for the moon.

The rockets could one day become part of a mission to the Moon to reestablish a small lunar colony of scientists or space tourists.

Bezos envisions that in the future it might lead to an Amazon style delivery service for lunar visitors to get a new Fire tablet or one of the other millions of products sold on Amazon.

He proposes that sending gear and cargo for establishing a lunar colony could start as early as 2020 with humans arriving sometime later.

Now we need to be careful not to dismiss him for such ideas as it was only in December of 2013 that he unveiled on CBS’s 60 Minutes program his future of Amazon delivery using drones.

While it might still be a while before small eCommerce businesses could take advantage of moon deliveries, this type of out of the box thinking is what has made Amazon such a pioneer in eCommerce.

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