For some customers in the Cincinnati area, their packages are now being dropped on their doorsteps – literally. Workhorse, the FAA and city of Loveland, OH, are testing a pilot drone package delivery program.
Workhorse Group’s HorseFly autonomous drone package delivery system is making deliveries to customers who have opted-in to a test program that utilizes the Workhorse Ares Drone Package Delivery App, which is integrated with existing online e-commerce platforms.
“We feel this is a game-changing moment to innovate the way packages are delivered for many years to come,” said Steve Burns, Workhorse CEO. “By not only reducing the expense of last mile delivery, but also providing the consumer with the ability to opt-in, visualize, and confirm their package delivery on their property, we have re-imagined home delivery.”
The HorseFly is an unmanned drone capable of delivering a 10-pound package and uses just 3 cents per mile to operate. Built with carbon fiber construction, the HorseFly is capable of flying at a max speed of 50 mph with a 30-minute flight time.
The HorseFly is an 8-roter octocopter and is guided by autonomous GPS and Compass technology, using infrared cameras for landing. It launches from atop a Workhorse delivery vehicle, navigates to the dropoff location, and then back to the truck’s roof for recharging. When the UAV is in position above the destination, a remote observer is sent a video feed, which can be used to assess the safe completion of the delivery and make any small adjustments to the UAV position during drop-off, if needed, the company explained.
In the Cincinnati test, the drone must remain within the line of sight of the drone at all times.
Data from the pilot program will provide essential insights into consumer preferences, as well as real-world evidence to support expanded use cases of drone delivery with the FAA, Workhorse said.
To date, the system has been successfully tested with UPS and an undisclosed large retailer.
In the pilot program, the consumer can monitor the progress of their package delivery through their downloaded app. At the delivery location, which the consumer can choose on the app by touching the point on a map, the drone autonomously descends and the package is released. The consumer can opt-in to receive a photograph and confirmation of their delivery. The HorseFly drone returns to the delivery truck at a planned stop and autonomously redocks and recharges for its next delivery.
Last year, Workhorse and UPS teamed up to test the drone delivery, with the HorseFly successfully making a delivery from atop a UPS delivery vehicle in Lithia, FL. Workhorse built the electric UPS package car used in the test.
“This test is different than anything we’ve done with drones so far. It has implications for future deliveries, especially in rural locations where our package cars often have to travel miles to make a single delivery,” said Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability, at the time. “Imagine a triangular delivery route where the stops are miles apart by road. Sending a drone from a package car to make just one of those deliveries can reduce costly miles driven. This is a big step toward bolstering efficiency in our network and reducing our emissions at the same time.”
The test vehicle featured a small cage below the drone that extended into the roof of the UPS truck, allowing a UPS driver to insert a package into the cage from inside the vehicle.