UPS Foundation to Test Drones for Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief in Texas


The UPS Foundation said it is partnering with drone manufacturer CyPhy Works and the American Red Cross to test using a drone to identify areas with the most flood damage in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

“Accurately and quickly assessing the impact is a critical step to help save lives and lay the groundwork for eventual recovery and rebuilding,” said UPS Foundation president Eduardo Martinez.

UPS ranks No. 1 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest North American for-hire carriers.

A tethered drone will be used for a one-week on-site test starting Sept. 12 in Houston in an area badly affected by the flooding, according to UPS. That could be a model for a rapid response team in the future, the company says.

The tethered drone will be able to go up to 400 feet at a fixed location for aerial observation with a 30x zoom camera with 10 miles of visibility. Because it is tethered and powered from the ground, and can be hooked up to a generator, it can continue operating for days or weeks.

The drone, called PARC for Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications, “will be able to identify homes that have experienced water damage long before waters recede,” according to UPS.

UPS’s strategic enterprise fund has invested in CyPhy and the shipping giant partnered with CyPhy for a test last year of drone delivery of urgent packages to remote locations, with a mock delivery of medicine to an island off the coast of Massachusetts.

UPS’s senior vice president of global engineering Mark Wallace has called such tests “a bridge to the future of customer service and urgent package delivery.”

Earlier this year, UPS tested home delivery by a drone deployed from one of its brown trucks, using a drone called HorseFly built by Workhorse Group.

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