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The U.S. Postal Service has octocopter drones on the brain

Writer:Lisa VentreSource:http://siliconangle. Date:2015-04-28

Abstract:

 

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is looking for companies to give it the edge for delivering the mail in the future. This means seeking bids with manufacturers who can provide new and better ways to advance its fleet of delivery vehicles. One of those bids comes from an interesting source: an octocopter designed by The University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science and UAV specialists from Workhorse Group, Inc.

The Stack picked up the story, reporting that Workhorse Group is up against other contenders for bids such as Fiat, GM, and Nissan–however, this might be the only drone on the list.

The drone platform is two part: a delivery system based out of a van, called ‘WorkHorse’, and a drone attached to it, called ‘HorseFly.’

The drone is an eight-rotored unmanned autonomous vehicle (UAV) that can recharge itself in two minutes wirelessly while docked. The autonomous part comes up when the drone goes into operation as it can pick up a parcel, scan its barcode, and calculate the GPS coordinates to deliver the package to. All of this without any human intervention–except of course to drive within range of the delivery address.

The innovation of the platform is to eschew concerns about the short range of drones when it comes to delivery by bringing home base as close as possible. Earlier expectations with drones included flying packages directly from warehouses, across cities, to recipient addresses–however, a “last mile” solution the van-plus-drone solution works a lot better.

“Our premise with HorseFly is that the HorseFly sticks close to the horse,” Workhorse CEO Steve Burns said last year, explaining the drone platform. “If required, the HorseFly will wirelessly recharge from the large battery in the WorkHorse truck. The fact that the delivery trucks are sufficiently scattered within almost any region during the day makes for short flights, as opposed to flying from the warehouse for each delivery.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that as many as 7,500 small commercial drones will be in operation by 2018. Although currently commercial applications for drones are approved by the FAA on a case-by-case basis, it is expected that the FAA will be working up commercial guidelines to follow up other regulations soon.

In March, the FAA approved the use of drones for commercial purposes below 200ft. Although this gave blanket permission, it only affected about 45 companies that had already gained approval at the time. More and more applications are approved each month.

Not the only drone delivery in town

 

The USPS is not the only outfit in the US involved in delivering packages on the lookout for drone technology. The ever-expanding Internet retailer Amazon.com, Inc. received permission from the  Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) this year to test a proposed drone delivery service.

In 2014, Fedex Express showed interest in drone technology for niche uses, such as deliveries to remote areas otherwise inaccessible by traditional vehicles. And United Parcel Service Inc., the world’s largest package delivery company, revealed plans to use drones to deliver humanitarian aid during disaster scenarios.

Drone delivery services are still in their embryonic stages as regulations evolve, but even with more approvals happening it is unlikely that any will be seen anytime soon.

Photo credit: Lisa Ventre, UC Creative Services

TypeInfo: Industry News

Keywords for the information:IOT  unmanned aerial vehicle  USPS