Launching Drones from the Roof of a Truck, Workhorse Beats Amazon to Drone Deliveries

By launching them out of the roof of a truck, one company has found a way to make the unmanned flying machines deliver packages today while Amazon is tussling with regulators over drone deliveries.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) latest rules have been managed to be adhered to by the U.S. firm Workhorse which has created a system called “HorseFly”.

The done can fly for 30 minutes, carry a 10 pound package and can travel at 50 miles per hour. The last mile of delivery – places trucks or vans can’t reach such as rural areas is addressed by Workhorse’s idea.

New rules on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) were issued by the FAA earlier this year. The drone needed to remain in the visual line-of-sight of the operator is one of the key points in the rules which has thwarted Amazon’s plans for drone delivery.

The drones are placed on trucks from where they are launched out and hence manage ot remain within sight of the driver and this is the solution of Workhorse.

The drones remain within the line-of-sight of the truck drivers, said Steve Burns, chief executive of Workhorse.

“We launch from atop the truck, and efficiencies are not as good as if you could just launch from 30 miles way, but they are staggering,” Burns told CNBC in a TV interview.

The cost savings made the drone deliveries interesting, Burns explained. Driver deliver between 150 and 200 packages and are paid around $30 to $40 per hours, he said. Costs are saved as drivers are not involved in a drone delivery which cost about 2 cents per mile because of electricity.

This is just the beginning of Workhorse’s plan where the current solution entails releasing the drone by the drivers after they take a truck to a location.

“Like a lot of new technologies you kind of go for the low hanging fruit. And the long distance out in rural areas and some suburban, that’s the longest cost per package because it’s not very efficient for the driver or the truck. So you start there, then you move inland, if you can imagine a drone jumping up on top of a building, maybe, and there is a central landing spot where everybody picks up their packages…it could get that precise,” Burns said.

Potential plans with drones being perched in high places like lampposts ready to be deployed at any time are revealed in some patent information by Amazon as the company is continuing to invest in drone technology.

However Amazon is being held back by the FAA’s regulations so far. Therefore to test its drone delivery technology in rural and suburban areas in Britain, the U.S. e-commerce giant recently struck a partnership with the U.K. government.

If companies can prove that they can stay within the rules and still be safe, the FAA has said companies can operate drones for deliveries, even though the drone industry was “disappointed” with the FAA’s latest rules, Burns said. it is this exception to the FAA rules that Workhorse has taken advantage of.

Workhorse is hoping to sell the drones to customers later this year as it is developing and testing the HorseFly drone with the University of Cincinnati.

(Adapted from CNBC)

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