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USPS eyes drones for mail delivery

In a Sept. 23 request for information, USPS said it is exploring the use of unmanned aircraft systems to supplement mail delivery on expensive routes and collect geospatial data to help improve performance of all autonomous vehicles, including its own, and inform its facility and land management. 

The drones would conduct beyond-line-of-sight mail delivery to remote locations or to residences with long driveways. The drone would launches from a USPS vehicle, make its delivery and return to the vehicle as the carrier continued along the route.  

USPS also envisions a drones-as-a-service operation where clients could access USPS drones for their own deliveries. Additionally, drone service providers could leverage USPS drone resources -- vehicles, launching, charging, data -- for their own applications, such as farm surveys or power line inspections.

The Postal Service said it anticipates a multipart program to test UAS technology and develop standard navigation capabilities, secure data protocols and best practices for maintenance and training programs, eventually hoping to launch a national UAS mail delivery service.

USPS has been evaluating other autonomous modes of mail delivery. In February, it issued an RFI for technologies that will allow autonomous vehicles to drive along a mail route while its operator organizes the mail before depositing it in curbside mailboxes. In May, it partnered with autonomous trucking firm TuSimple to test self-driving trucks for transporting mail between Phoenix and Dallas.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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