With Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval, Workhorse Group Inc. and the University of Cincinnati (UC) are continuing their joint development of Workhorse Group’s HorseFly unmanned aircraft system (UAS), which works in tandem with the company’s electric work trucks.
The HorseFly octocopter weighs 15 pounds, has a payload capacity of 10 pounds, can achieve a maximum speed of 50 mph and has a flight time of 30 minutes.
Delivery drivers, using a touchscreen interface in their truck, can assign a destination to the aircraft – which then has the ability to launch itself from the roof of the vehicle, ascend to a safe cruising altitude and autonomously navigate to the desired delivery point (e.g., a house’s front stoop).
A human pilot in a remote location monitors the descent with a multi-camera video feed and executes the package drop-off. The HorseFly can then navigate to the new location of the delivery truck and use infrared tracking to land and dock with the vehicle. The HorseFly can then recharge using the onboard battery of the electric vehicle.
The FAA granted a two-year Certificate of Waiver or Authorization to the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center and Test Complex. Testing of the HorseFly will take place at Wilmington Air Park in Wilmington, Ohio.
Collaboration between UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science and the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center led to Ohio State Department of Transportation sponsorship for the FAA authorization, in addition to priority access to the air park.
Workhorse has teamed with the university’s research institute to develop all of the systems necessary to execute precision takeoff and landing on the top of a standard delivery truck in various weather conditions and with various package weights.
According to Workhorse, the HorseFly saves the delivery driver the time and trouble of having to physically drop off each package himself – which cuts down on the cost of delivery per package. Additionally, because the truck would be making fewer stops, emissions would be reduced.
“Obtaining this authorization from the FAA is a vital step forward in making our HorseFly drone a practical component of our package-delivery system by testing the drone’s unmanned flying capabilities,” says Steve Burns, CEO of Workhorse. “We believe the pairing of the HorseFly drone and the Workhorse electric vehicle may usher in a significant improvement in reducing emissions and improving the efficiency of the delivery process.”