Horsefly, the new Postal Service delivery with drones combined with trucks

One of the Postal Service companies – Workhorse Group Inc., – is hoping to make an impression by showing the Postal Service that the future could involve a drone that can deliver packages while the mail carrier works their normal route.

The electric delivery truck is called “Workhorse” while the drone that carries the packages is called “Horsefly” and is a product of a years-long partnership between the company and the University of Cincinnati, which has an unmanned vehicle research program.

The Postal Service has winnowed down the companies bidding to build the next generation of its delivery vehicles – and one of them is offering up an all-electric truck that doubles as a drone launcher.

The agency released a list of pre-qualified sources for the contract April 14, which include Ford motor company, AM General LLC, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US LLC and Nissan North America, Inc., among others.

But one of the companies – Workhorse Group Inc., – is hoping to make an impression by showing the Postal Service that the future could involve a drone that can deliver packages while the mail carrier works their normal route.

The electric delivery truck is called “Workhorse” while the drone that carries the packages is called “Horsefly” and is a product of a years-long partnership between the company and the University of Cincinnati, which has an unmanned vehicle research program.

“We feel very confident that our integrated drone technology on top of our electric truck is the best solution for the Postal Service as well as give them the lowest total cost of ownership for their truck needs and their future drone needs,” said Duane Hughes, director of sales at Workhorse Group, Inc.
One of 16 companies now bidding for the chance to build the next Postal Service delivery fleet is Workhorse Group Inc., which is offering an electric truck that can launch a delivery drone.  The drone – called HorseFly is the product of a partnership between Workhorse Group, Inc., and the University of Cincinnati to to create the ultimate unmanned aerial vehicle for safely delivering goods.

The mail carrier gets to a neighborhood to begin delivering mail or other packages. Meanwhile, the drone delivers a package either on its own or controlled by a pilot remotely to another address a mile or two away, saving the mail carrier time and allowing them to reach more addresses.

Cutting down on the time it takes the Postal Service to complete a route and delivering more packages during that time could save the Postal Service a lot of time and money, according to Hughes. The fifth generation of the Horsefly drone – its most current incarnation – weighs about 15 pounds and can carry a 10-pound package in extendable cages that lock together during flight.

The horsefly drone was developed by AMP electric vehicles and University of Cincinnati researchers. It comes complete with four cameras and eight rotors.

The drone rides on top of the truck but its claw sticks down into the cabin of the truck so the driver can hand it packages. Burns explains the drone is not for all deliveries. “The logistical software or the driver will say, ‘hey this house is three miles in the wrong direction. I’ve got four other deliveries this way, so that’s a good one for the horsefly. I’ll keep going with the other four and it will catch up with me later.'”

Here’s how it works:

  • The truck cover rolls back and the drone takes off.
  • Guided by GPS, the drone flies at an altitude of 400 feet.
  • A certified pilot in a national call center will guide the drone as it’s descending.
  • After the drop-off, the drone heads back to the truck.
  • GPS can get it within three feet of the truck but then an IR camera uses an infrared pattern on top of the truck to guide itself back into the landing bay.
  • UC and AMP have applied to the FAA for an outside drone test permit. In the meantime, Burns continues marketing just the electric truck part.

 

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