UPS: Drones could be useful, but not soon

UPS CEO-elect David Abney said he sees potential for shipments by drone, but added that there are many issues to be resolved, particularly dealing with safety.

“We do believe that at some point in time that there will be a use for drones,” Abney said. “We’ve looked at that technology for a long time…. It may be very time-urgent, time-sensitive, expensive shipments or things like that.”

Abney made the comments during a Rotary Club of Atlanta luncheon on Monday. He will step into the top position at UPS on Sept. 1.

His comments come on the heels of online retailer Amazon’s request last week for permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to test drones over its property. Amazon last December unveiled a plan to deliver packages with drones.

While Amazon’s plan is seen by some as a publicity stunt and by others as a threat to shipping firms like UPS and FedEx, Abney also noted, “Amazon is a big customer of ours.”

UPS has said it will “continue to evaluate potential uses [for drones] within the business.”

“I don’t think it’s a question of if it’s going to happen,” Abney said, but added, “I don’t know that it’s anytime in the very near future.”

Still, he said, “There’s a lot of things that have to be worked out before you can make that happen…. The last thing you would want is for drones to interfere with the airspace.”

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