Delivery drones may still seem a ways off because of new U.S. commercial drone regulations requiring drones to stay within sight of their human operators on the ground. But such rules pose no problem for a U.S. startup that developed a drone capable of launching from delivery trucks and dropping off packages within the driver’s line of sight.
The HorseFly drone developed by Workhorse Group, an electric vehicle company in Cincinnati, Ohio, is an octocopter designed to ride aboard a delivery truck. Once it gets a delivery mission, the drone can take off through the truck’s roof with a 10-pound package and automatically fly to its destination using GPS. A remote human pilot located in the equivalent of a command center will manually guide the drone down the last 100 feet to the ground to avoid trees or similar obstacles. The delivery truck driver can also keep an eye on the drone’s progress from the ground and can always hit a recall button for the drone to abort its mission and return—a necessary step under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) commercial drone rules set to take effect on Aug. 29.
“A lot of journalists said the holy grail of drone delivery got left out in the cold because Amazon can’t travel 30 miles from warehouse to the suburbs to deliver a book in 30 minutes,” say Steve Burns, CEO of the Workhorse Group. “We built ours from the get-go to work with line of sight; a major delivery company is within line of sight of almost every business or house in America sometime during the day.”