United Parcel Service said it began testing the use of drones for emergency deliveries of medical supplies this week with a flight in rural Massachusetts, which the company hopes will eventually lead to federal approval of drones as a regular delivery option.
The test flight on Thursday was handled by CyPhy, a Danvers, Massachusetts-based drone maker in which UPS, the world's largest package delivery company, owns a stake.
The drone delivered a small package from Beverly, located about 25 miles northeast of Boston, to Children's Island, a summer camp for children three miles off the Atlantic coast.
The drone, painted brown and with a UPS logo on the front, made the journey in about 8 minutes.
"This demonstrates a drone is the best and most efficient way to deliver a package in a medical emergency in a remote location," Helen Greiner, chief technology officer and founder of CyPhy, told Reuters.
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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last month published rules that restrict the use of drones to within the line of sight of the operator.
Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president of global engineering, said the company hopes to persuade the FAA to allow UPS to expand on its tests and eventually offer emergency deliveries by drone as part of its services.
Earlier this year UPS announced it was backing a start-up using drones in Rwanda to transport life-saving blood supplies and vaccines.
Drones are seen as having great potential to deliver packages, once FAA concerns over safety have been addressed.
Online retailer Amazon.com Inc has been testing drones in the United Kingdom, Canada and Denmark, while Wal-Mart Stores has been using them to manage inventory at warehouses.