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Carroll School of Management

Drones

David Abney

Chairman and CEO, UPS

Vxcerpt from remarks to Boston College Chief Executives Club  

May 19, 2016

TAKEAWAY: Drones

Audience Member:
You started off as a messenger company with people on foot, bicycle, and moved to trucks. Now you have airplanes. What would you say is the potential use of the newest technological development, which is drones, in affecting your business?

Abney:  
You know, you have kept the streak going. I have not had a talk with any group since I’ve been the CEO that somebody didn’t want to talk about drones. I think it started the Sunday after Thanksgiving about two, two and a half years ago—a little 60 Minutes segment. But we do believe that drones have capabilities.  

In fact, we just announced a joint effort to where, in Rwanda, we are teaming up with a drone company and with GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. This is in a part of the world where 70% of the roads get washed out, and you just have no access. And so we are right now going to start a partnership with these two other organizations and make sure that we get these vaccines delivered using drones. And we’ve got various other tests. We have them in some of our buildings and we’re doing some things checking out the technology.

What I don’t believe is that there’s going to be 10,000 or 20,000 of these flying over metro Boston delivering dog food and toothbrushes and those things. I just don’t believe the economics of that work out. I do believe—especially when you talk about biogenetics and things that can have very short lives, extremely urgent—maybe things that are very valuable in rural places especially, I think there’s going to be a use for drones. We will plan to be right in the middle of that. I just don’t think it’s going to be widespread like some people seem to think. When I say widespread—just replacing all other forms of delivery.