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Meet Workhorse, The Drone Delivery Company That’ll Give Amazon a Run for Their Money!

workhorse delivery truckWhen Amazon first announced that they would be sending packages by autonomous drones, it raised a few red flags in peoples’ minds, not to mention our own.  But now, with drone technology getting more sophisticated every year, the idea of drones delivering packages by air doesn’t seem so … “Robot apocalypse is here!”

Since Amazon announced that they would get into the drone delivery business, they’ve had a monopoly on this kind of market for years. Well, not any more! You see, at a small airport in Ohio, a truck manufacturer is testing out something decidedly futuristic—and it’s going to give Amazon’s drones a run for their money!

Introducing the Workhorse Group, a drone delivery company working with major delivery companies like UPS to cut gas costs and increase efficiency—but with drones. Once the company gets the technology just right, they’ll be able to send small, retractable drone aircraft on deliveries. These drones will pop off a delivery truck’s roof and fly packages to delivery points up to a mile away.

“We saw that delivery drones will be in the mix for the future,” Workhorse Group CEO and robotic drone entrepreneur Steve Burns tells Fast Company. “That’s why we built our own delivery drone that’s integrated into the truck. We saw early on that from a central warehouse in suburbia, where you deploy local delivery trucks, it makes sense logistically to have the drones fly off the top of the truck and back to wherever the truck is. A driver is in vicinity, and they know where the delivery is.”

To give you a little background on the drone itself, Workhorse says it’s being developed in conjunction with the University of Cincinnati. They call it the HorseFly. Weighing 18 pounds with a battery, it can carry a package that weighs up to 10 pounds and is designed for short flights of approximately one mile each way.

As Burns explains, truck drivers wouldn’t actually be doing double duty as drone pilots. They would confirm that an address is correct and push a deploy button, and then GPS and autopilot would take over the work. A human pilot, monitoring multiple drones from a remote location, would then guide the drone to a safe delivery once it arrives near a destination. A homing beacon would then essentially guide the drone back to the truck’s new location.

Of course, the whole reason that delivery drones are in the media these days is all thanks to Amazon’s highly publicized drone delivery program. But Workhorse believes that they can compete with Amazon in the drone delivery game. And besides, they have a contingency plan in place, too.

Workhorse’s real bread and butter is in manufacturing electric delivery trucks. UPS purchased approximately 125 electric trucks from the company earlier this summer, and Workhorse is one of several companies bidding on a lucrative Postal Service contract alongside much bigger names like Ford, Fiat, Chrysler, and Nissan.

In their pitch to the Postal Service, Workhorse contends that the agency, which has to do more with fewer resources, can become more efficient and fulfill its mission better with truck-mounted drones. “When you’re buying so many vehicles, you can take a look at it,” Burns says.

Currently, Workhorse is testing truck-based launches of the eight-rotor unmanned aircraft at the Wilmington Air Park in Wilmington, Ohio. It shouldn’t be too long before they get the green light to test in real-life conditions with real packages and real addresses. Get ready Amazon, there are even more drones in the future!

Photo credit: Fast Company

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