Verizon's Skyward Partnering with UPS Flight Forward on Retail Drone Delivery

UPS Flight Forward has entered into a partnership on retail drone delivery with Skyward, which is a Verizon subsidiary focusing on drone operations. 

The collaboration seeks to improve retail product delivery through hyper-smart connected drones enhanced by Verizon 4G LTE. The retail delivery program is aimed at The Villages in Florida.

Since 2020, UPS Flight Forward, Verizon and Skyward have been experimenting on the usability of 4G LTE for delivery drones, determining how dependable cellular networks perform at altitude.

The new drone fleet-management partnership between Skyward and UPS builds on UPS' relationship with Verizon, taking it a step higher into 5G.

"The low latency of 5G and edge compute is ideal for monitoring air traffic in and out of a busy logistics hub, especially those using mixed fleets of autonomous vehicles like drones, trucks and planes," said Mariah Scott, president of Skyward. "This year, we'll be taking the collaboration with UPS further by testing 5G Ultra Wideband integrations to connect the sky."

A drone delivers a package to a house. Courtesy Adobe.

Skyward-UPS retail drone delivery

The importance of drone deliveries was illuminated during the pandemic in 2020 due to the need for contactless delivery and minimal intermediaries.

With communities in lockdown and gridlocks in supply chains, drone deliveries showed enormous promise to not only deliver retail commodities, but also to distribute essential medical supplies. 

With Verizon's 5G and Skyward's drone platform, UPS plans to improve its delivery experience and introduce more immediacy and flexibility into retail drone deliveries. 

"Using Verizon's 5G and Skyward, we will be able to transform the delivery experience — more personal, more on-demand and with the same safety, efficiency and reliability our customers trust today," said Bala Ganesh, VP of the advanced technology group at UPS.

UPS Flight Forward

UPS is an authority in drone delivery.

So far, the company has completed 3,800 drone delivery flights since it started drone operations.

In 2019, UPS Flight Forward secured a Federal Aviation Administration full Part 135 certification, becoming an official drone air carrier.

UPS also says it was the first to fly commercial drone deliveries outside the visual line of sight.


Before Verizon's Skyward acquisition, Skyward was already a pacesetter, with companies counting on it to improve the safety of their drone operations and slash costs. 

The Verizon acquisition gives more businesses, both small and big, a unified solution for their drone administration, integration and wireless connection. 

The Skyward platform caters to drone responsibilities such as FAA compliance support, mission planning, registration and pilot credential assessment.

It is designed to create more synergy across multiple departments, personnel, facilities and projects. 

Businesses can also leverage Verizon's infrastructure, using its mobile private network for comprehensive data analytics and secure cloud connect. 

Retail and drone industries

The partnership for fleet-managed retail drone delivery and ones like it will have effects on retailers, consumers and suppliers.

Retailers will look to a sophisticated 5G-enabled network to control, supervise and interact with large swathes of drones at the same time. 

More drones and devices will be introduced due to the increased bandwidth and ultra-low latency of the Verizon 5G network.

“We will need the ability to manage and support multiple drones, flying simultaneously, dispatched from a centralized location, operating in a secure and safe environment," said Carol Tomé, CEO of UPS. "To do this at scale, alongside Verizon and Skyward, we'll need the power of 5G.” 

Drone delivery will also stretch to delivering medical commodities to remote communities and delivering items to online shoppers' doorsteps. 

There will be more impulse purchases, neighborhood shops being affected and shipping companies advancing drone delivery in other markets.

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Verizon, drone