One year ago a nonprofit collaborative effort of Box Elder and Tooele counties launched an open house for Desert UAS’ — unmanned aerial systems — Xperience Center in Tooele City.
Deseret UAS played a role in last week’s announcement that United Parcel Service will start delivering medical materials for the University of Utah by drones, according to Muriel Xochimitl, Deseret UAS communications director.
Headquartered in Tooele, Deseret UAS is a state-funded nonprofit organization with a mission to facilitate rural economic development in Tooele County through the advancement of the Urban Air Mobility industry.
At last year’s Deseret UAS open house, there was talk of future flying pathways in the low altitude sky.
Utah had already begun the process of developing plans for “vertical infrastructure” or aerial highways, according to Lt. Governor Spencer Cox remarks at the open house.
“We may not need traditional highways in the future,” he said. “Instead, you may look up and see drones flying at different levels in pathways that are carrying goods and people.”
The future took one step closer to today with last week’s announcement by UPS.
The announcement came after the Federal Aviation Administration awarded the UPS’s subsidiary, Flight Forward, a Part 135 Standard certification.
“Flight Forward will work with new customers in other industries to design additional solutions for a wide array of last-mile and urgent delivery challenges,” said Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer .
Drone deliveries will significantly reduce crucial wait times for vital medical materials, reduce traffic congestion, and improve air quality, according to University of Utah officials.
“It’s extremely exciting that we are on track to launch Utah’s first functioning drone delivery program,” said Gordon Crabtree, University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics CEO. “Not only are we committed to providing innovative and quality care to our patients, but we are committed to improving Utah’s air quality by being on the forefront of this new technological frontier.”
For the past year, Deseret UAS representatives have served on the Utah Department of Transportation’s UAM Working Group. In this capacity, they have provided subject-matter advice and expertise regarding the nascent, fast-growing UAM industry here in Utah, according to Xochimitl.
With the natural assets of wide-open land and air needed for autonomous vehicle testing in Tooele County, Deseret UAS chairman and Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne thinks the county is perfectly situated to take advantage of the transportation system of the future.
“Through our work with UDOT’s Urban Air Mobility Working Group, we have been involved in the discussions regarding the drone package delivery recently announced by UPS,” Milne said. “Utah is a global leader in the industry, and we look forward to seeing the advantages of helping to bring this technology to our county as well.”
Industry analysts estimate that by 2040 the unmanned aerial systems industry will be worth $1.4 trillion and generate millions of high-paying jobs around the world.
“Drones have the potential to improve nearly every aspect of our lives,” Milne said. “I hope that our county continues to be at the forefront of attracting companies who need to test their technologies within the ‘Highways in the Sky’ framework being developed by UDOT. We strive to be a commercial incubator that helps our local economy flourish while simultaneously supporting the success of Utah’s other key players.”