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Virginia Beach, Va., Drone Company Debuts Delivery Areas

The Destination Box, called DBX, is a gray storage locker about the size of a parking space and a few feet taller than a person. On top of each box is a large netted area where drones drop off packages.

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(TNS) — Virginia Beach drone services company DroneUp is expanding beyond the skies to build out its delivery ecosystem.

The company unveiled a kiosk package pickup and drop-off system at its headquarters on Tuesday to expand the reach of drone delivery.

The Destination Box, called DBX, is a gray storage locker about the size of a parking space and a few feet taller than a person. On top of each box is a large netted area where drones drop off packages. An automated elevator rises out of the box, grabs the package and stores it inside. During a demonstration, a DroneUp employee was able to retrieve the package through a small opening in the front of the box.

The drop-off process works similarly: Retailers or restaurants place packages in the box, and a drone then picks up the items for delivery. Customers can also drop off returns.

Much like an Amazon Locker, packages can be stored in 30 sections inside the structures until a drone stops by for retrieval or a person picks them up.

DroneUp Chief Technology Officer John Vernon said the delivery boxes could serve as hubs to expand drone delivery to nearby apartments, college campuses and office parks, among other locations.

“Additionally, we had to find a way to reach every customer while keeping costs low — much lower than traditional delivery models,” Vernon said during the event.

For DroneUp, the boxes and other improvements are a bid to disrupt the exploding home delivery sector driven by companies like Amazon, DoorDash, Instacart and others, company CEO and founder Tom Walker said during the reveal. He criticized other delivery methods, like trucks, for being inefficient and environmentally destructive.

“We will save hundreds of millions of dollars of the cost of delivery,” Walker said.

Walker also said the technology could potentially save lives. More than 1,000 truck drivers and drivers/sales workers died on the job in 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Right now, the drones are able to deliver up to 10 pounds of items. The limit doesn’t deter Walker. During the event, he said most current deliveries weigh 8 pounds or less.

Along with the boxes, the company demonstrated a new drone model that can zip around up to 60 mph, reach a distance of 30 miles, fly in about 35 mph winds and travel in rain and snow. During the demo, the drone body remained steady as the drone made twists and turns due to the unit’s tilting rotors.

Additionally, the company created an airspace management system, like air traffic control, that keeps everything safe in the air and on the ground, Walker said.

The focus on ground solutions rather than beefier drone technology has significantly reduced costs, Walker said. He said DroneUp has spent a little more than $100 million creating its program, while competitors have spent billions of dollars on drone programs. Amazon has spent more than $2 billion on its drone program, according to a 2022 Bloomberg report.

The company already has a major partner for scaling up its system. In 2021, Walmart announced that it would use DroneUp’s delivery system in several locations, including Virginia Beach. Those deliveries were limited to single-family homes and townhouses within a 0.8-mile radius of the Walmart.

DroneUp is already using its new DBX system in Dallas and Virginia Beach and plans to expand it to other markets by late 2024. A DroneUp spokesperson said the Virginia Beach boxes are currently located at its headquarters and will be placed at partner locations this summer to begin operations.

© 2024 The Virginian-Pilot. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.