Can you give our readers a brief overview of the Workhorse HorseFly?
Workhorse has created a package delivery drone called HorseFly. HorseFly is a fully autonomous, optionally piloted, Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). Our UAS is designed to assist package delivery drivers with small lightweight packages.
Our UAS flight manager called Ares identifies outlying delivery destinations from the delivery driver’s route that meet the size and weight constraints of the UAS. Once the driver is one mile away from the delivery address, Ares flight manager notifies the delivery driver that the UAS can be sent to deliver the selected package. After the UAS is loaded and sent the delivery driver continues their route. The UAS autonomously flies to the GPS location that was selected by the user with our Drone Package Delivery App. The UAS will then gently lower your package down from a safe height of 15 feet. After the delivery is complete the UAS autonomously navigates back to the delivery truck and docks to await the next delivery.
Our UAS has many redundant safety features that ensures safe UAS operation always. Some of these features include sense and avoid, ADS-B, aviation lights, and remote pilot abilities. These features allow us to detect any aircraft or object within 400 feet of our UAS. If an object is detected, our UAS will pause its flight path and signal a human pilot for help. Our remote pilot will then see the UAS needs help. The remote pilot has real-time video as well as all the sensor data to make an informed decision about what to do next.
What was the incentive behind creating HorseFly?
HorseFly was created to help save time and money for the last mile delivery drivers.
Why the name HorseFly?
Workhorse creates fully electric and hybrid electric package delivery trucks. Our UAS piggybacks on top of the electric trucks. Without our trucks the drone would not be effective.
What industries will benefit from the HorseFly? How?
HorseFly was created for the last mile delivery market. Our system is designed to quickly get customers their package at a fraction of the cost. The cost is about two cents per mile to operate the UAS and about 30 cents per mile to operate our electric trucks.
What were the challenges faced when developing HorseFly?
There were several challenges that were faced in the development of HorseFly, but most notably was the precision landing on top of the truck. To use the UAS as everyday delivery we had to build a drone that could handle all types of weather conditions.
The most difficult weather condition to account for is wind. When wind is present the UAS tilts into the wind, so it can remain in the same spot. Which is an easy task for the flight controller. The difficult part is gusting winds that do not remain constant. Here in Cincinnati, Ohio we have wind gust that reach upwards of 15 mile an hour. After some long days of engineering we developed a system that allows our UAS to consistently dock with a package delivery truck in 23 mile an hour winds.
Our current challenge is with the FAA regulations that are imposed on UAS thru part 107. We are working with our local government to be a part of the UAS Integration Pilot Program.
Can you tell us about the UPS and Workhorse residential package delivery trial?
The residential package trial was a successful test delivery that showed how our technology could be implemented with current delivery method.
Any further trials / collaborations in the pipeline?
We are continuing test trials of our UAS here in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Are HorseFly units in production and for sale yet? How much are they?
The HorseFly is ready for production, but no information will be released until the delivery drone regulation is lifted.
How far can a HorseFly travel in a single return flight and how long for?
From a full charge the HorseFly can fly for 35 minutes fully loaded, but the idea is that the UAS remains only a few miles away from the package delivery vehicle. This ensures that we will have enough power to make it to the delivery location and back to the truck. Once the UAS is back on top of the truck, it begins to charge until its ready for the next delivery.
How much can the HorseFly carry?
The HorseFly can carry 10 lbs (4.5kg).
Any provisions to deal with natural hazards such as weather conditions or wildlife?
Our Ares Flight Manager and safety features address these concerns. Before our UAS is launched, Ares Flight Manager checks for the current weather, no-fly zones, and for any aircraft transmitting ADS-B. If any of these checks raise a red flag, then the UAS will not launch.
Ground based wildlife is avoided by lowering the package down from 15 feet in the air. Aerial based wildlife is avoided by the sense and avoid cameras that can detect any object in its flight path from 400 feet away.
Do you see opportunities in other industries for the HorseFly?
HorseFly has many capabilities that can be used in every industry related to UASs.
President Trump recently announced the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program, how do you see this benefitting your industry?
This initiative will significantly progress the UAS movement. The collection of data across all UAS operators will help the FAA create new laws that will allow for safe UAS operation. This has had a great impact on the UAS community.
Overall how do you see the drone/UAV technology expanding or changing in the next 5 years?
With in the next 5 years UASs will be delivering your packages to your door.
The next 20 years?
UAS delivery will be the standard delivery option. Manned electrical aerial vehicles will be on the rise. Workhorse has created a prototype called the SureFly that is an multi rotor helicopter that utilizes UAS technology.
In the drone/UAV industry what companies excite or inspire you?
Everyone in this industry has brought something exciting to the table. Every day we find something new and creative that utilizes UAS technology. The most exciting aspect of this industry is how fast it is growing. We are excited to be apart of this booming field.
Anything else you’d like to add?
We have just rolled out our new Drone Delivery App by Workhorse that allows users to opt in to our UAS delivery system. This app allows the user sets their address and delivery location from there smart phone. Our app provides real time delivery updates with a live video feed of your package being dropped off by our UAS.
About Jeffrey Bennett
Jeffrey Bennett graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a BS in aerospace engineering. During his time at UC, he helped create an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) that assisted firefighters in West Virginia. It was during this project that he realized the great potential and future market that UASs were creating. Workhorse hired Jeffrey right out of college to help develop their package delivery UAS called HorseFly. After the many successful HorseFly demonstration Jeffrey was promoted to project manager to begin work on the manned electric aerial vehicle they call SureFly. SureFly’s first manned flight will take place early next year.