Electric truck company Workhorse Group has just designed and produced its own delivery drones to take shipments as far as possible with traditional truck transportation, then send off its drones for the harder-to-reach "last mile."
The company demonstrated its Horsefly drone on Monday, and hopes to have them in the field by Christmas. We recently reported on companies like UPS and Amazon band-aiding that last local stretch of delivery efficiency with their train-mounted or delivery truck-mounted drone hubs.
The presentation took place at the Las Vegas Convention Center during the Pack Expo International Trades Conference, where Workhorse co-founder and CEO Steve Burns explained the motivation behind the company’s new focus on unmanned aerial vehicles.
“We’ve been working for years now on electric trucks and we’ve made them about as efficient as we can with today’s technology. Now we are going for improvements in last-mile delivery efficiency,” he told Trucks.com.
In the early days, it seemed like drone deliveries would replace our current model of using trucks and other traditional vehicles. It may have been an understandable vision a few years back, but it's one that doesn’t really make much sense. Far more logical and efficient is to augment our already-standardized infrastructure with drones, and to have a UAV take care of drop-offs that trucks are less designed for, such as rural, remote areas.
Amazon has already shown us that retail companies interested in drones are thinking along these lines, by patenting train-mounted hubs for drones, and thereby taking advantage of already implemented infrastructure such as railroads and freight trains. It just makes sense to let your drones be transported by other vehicles, before zipping off to handle that last-mile drop off and then returning to base. UPS seems to be on the same page.
According to Trucks.Com, Burns says “[We’ve] done a test with UPS, we’re working with the [Federal Aviation Administration], we’ve been modifying our operational software and now we are ready.”
Apparently, on-board sensors were added to the drones in question, to appease the FAA’s desire for safety regarding obstacle avoidance. With this modification in place, the Horsefly drones simply hover in place once an obstacle is detected, preventing dangerous collisions with people or vital infrastructure.
Naturally, this move away from traditional delivery via truck will save corporations such as Workhorse a lot of money and increase time-sensitive delivery efficiency. Reportedly, the eight-rotor Horsefly drone reaches up to 50 miles per hour and costs about 3 cents per mile to operate. That’s a gigantic leap in spending, which was likely the motivating factor in the company’s decision to join this brave new world of drones. Whatever the cause, the result makes sense. We’re gradually but assuredly entering a new landscape of transportation and delivery, of which this is just the most recent example.
Let's have a look at the Horsefly in action!