Hybrid Trucks Backed with Drones May Be The Future of Packaging
When internet shopping giant Amazon announced that it was to trial drones as a method of delivery it raised eyebrows; an audacious plan, and a great publicity stunt, but surely an impractical idea in the long run? Perhaps, but perhaps not; a US company, Amp Electric Vehicles, has its own idea out into the public realm, a combination of versatile drone, and hybrid vehicle. Designed as a method of delivering packages that is both ecologically sound and extremely practical, this one really could have legs.
Let’s start with the vehicle itself: every courier needs a truck, and the Amp plan uses the Workhorse, which it just happens to own. The whole system is being branded as E-Gen, and it works like this. The truck runs on an electric battery, which has a 60 mile range. It also has a gas engine, which can be used to extend that range, or to charge the battery pack. Now, here’s the clever bit: while drones have a limited range and battery life, the truck is used to shorten the journey it has to make. Put simply, the driver parks at a convenient spot, and the drone completes the short journeys to the destinations, one by one, and returns to its docking station on top of the truck, where it recharges en-route to the next stopping point.
The combination of truck and drone not only extends the range of delivery, but also saves on fuel for the truck which, in conventional terms, would have to travel individually to each address. The drone, being smaller, is more economical to run, hence the cost savings are impressive. (more…)
Now, about the drone: the one chosen is known as Horsefly and has been developed in conjunction with the University of Cincinnati, and it differs from most other drones in certain
Now, about the drone: the one chosen is known as Horsefly and has been developed in conjunction with the University of Cincinnati, and it differs from most other drones in certain ways. Most of us have become familiar in recent years with the quadcopter, a clever and very versatile drone using four rotors. The Horsefly adds four more rotors, making eight in total, for added versatility and also in order that it can still fly should one or more fail. A standard quadcopter would be disabled in such a situation.
The clever logistics involved overcome the limitations of drones by having the Horsefly recharge when the truck is on the move. It’s a concept that has been well thought-out, and one that will be of interest to the main courier companies both in the US and across the world. Reports say that the truck itself is easy to drive – it is a known quantity after all – but what about the drone?
Amp has this bit sewn up, too; the Horsefly navigates the first part of its journey – potentially of a few miles – by GPS, and completes the more intricate part of the trip by remote operation from base using its mounted cameras. This allows it, potentially, to reach its target with greater accuracy. It’s all very clever and, while futuristic, the technology is tried and tested, and the concept could easily become reality.
There are problems to overcome, however, before drones start delivering parcels to your door. The major obstacle is that of licensing; the Federal Aviation Administration has yet to give the green light to commercial drones such as the Horsefly, as there are concerns about their use by persons less responsible – or more malicious – than the likes of Amazon and Amp. It is expected that there will be a license issued in time – Amazon has reportedly applied for one – and when that time comes, the whole face of package delivery could change beyond recognition.