An Ohio-based truck manufacturer has recently filed a Section 333 exemption with the FAA to deliver packages using its wireless recharging HorseFly octocopter that flies to and from a standard vehicle.
The HorseFly is currently being tested in a program together with the University of Cincinnati to develop the system necessary to execute precision take-offs and landings from the top of a delivery truck in a variety of weather conditions.
The concept behind the HorseFly is to combine drones with traditional package delivery services and assist in servicing outliers along the route to help cut down the overall cost of deliveries. This is the first UAV platform with the capability to make deliveries from a constantly moving vehicle and employs proprietary battery and system technology that was developed for EPA-approved electric work trucks.
The electric delivery truck, along with the integrated HorseFly system was among the contenders this year for a contract to build the next generation delivery vehicles for the U.S. Postal Service.
How it works
If a driver has four deliveries in one part of town but only one in another, the drone might be able to handle that single, less convenient delivery.
The technology combines autonomous and manual control.
GPS is used to determine the delivery location, and the drone flies there without human input. When it arrives at its destination, a downward-pointing camera switches on and an operator at a remote center takes over. The operator guides the drone down, making sure to avoid people and obstacles, and releases the package. The drone then resumes autonomous flight and returns to the truck.
In tests, the drone has flown at speeds up to 55 miles per hour with a maximum flight time of 30 minutes. The company is working with Panasonic, which provides batteries for its electric vehicles, on more advanced battery technology that will increase flight times to 45 minutes.
Drones are poised to revolutionize the delivery industry
While not as high profile as Amazon or Google, this delivery platform was recently demonstrated at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and could transform the delivery industry.
For now, tests of the technology over short distances continue, so keep your eyes to the sky now that Amazon has kick-started a revolution and traditional companies are jumping into the field!