Workhorse Group has developed an eight-rotor “octocopter” called HorseFly designed to be used in tandem with its electric package delivery trucks, some of which are in service with companies like FedEx and UPS.
Workhorse’s eight-rotor “octocopter” called Horsefly, which can launch from the roof of the delivery vehicle and navigate to the desired delivery point using GPS navigation
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Monday loosened the rules a bit on how drones can be operated for commercial applications.
Operators need to obtain a commercial drone pilot’s license, the unmanned aerial vehicles have to be flown during daylight at no more than 400 feet off the ground, and must remain visible to the operator at all times. Before the new rules went into effect, companies had to obtain special permission from the FAA for specific drone uses.
Drones can be used for all kinds of purposes: inspecting buildings, bridges, railroad tracks and other structures; inspecting agricultural conditions on farms; monitoring forest fires or crime activity; taking photographs or video; and making product deliveries.
Using drones to do these tasks can save enormous amounts of time and money – and often more safely.
Amazon.com has been actively pursuing drone technology to get packages to consumers, but the line-of-sight requirement has constrained its goal so far of using remote control to deliver packages miles away from the origin warehouse.
Workhorse Group, Inc., the parent company of AMP Electric Trucks and AMP Trucks, is much closer to using drones in daily operations thanks to a different business model.
It has developed an eight-rotor “octocopter” called HorseFly designed to be used in tandem with its electric package delivery trucks, some of which are in service with companies like FedEx and UPS. HorseFly weighs 15 pounds empty and has a payload capacity of 10 pounds. It can achieve a maximum speed of 50 mph and has a flight time of 30 minutes, according to the company.
HorseFly has the ability to launch itself from the roof of the delivery vehicle, ascend to a safe height and then navigate to the desired delivery point using GPS navigation.
Workhorse CEO Steve Burns, interviewed Monday on American Public Media’s “Marketplace” radio program and said the company will start out using the system in rural areas, where deliveries are expensive because of the distance between drop points and there are fewer safety issues compared to flying a drone in crowded city centers.
The idea is to let the driver, using a touchscreen interface in the delivery truck, make a last mile delivery to a residence that is further from a cluster of other consignees. If the driver has a handful of deliveries in one direction and one to the left, “Give the one to the left to the the bird,” he said.
“Somebody has to be viewing it, whether it’s in the passenger seat of the truck or in the early days we think we’ll have the driver just sit there and watch it – which isn’t the economies of scale, isn’t the efficiencies you’d like to see yet, but we’re ushering in something that could be as dramatic to the delivery of goods as the invention of the internal combustion engine,” Burns said. “At 2 or 3 cents a mile, which is the electricity these drones use, the efficiencies are just remarkable.”
Burns said Workhorse plans to be flying drones in real-world operation by the end of the year.