Researchers in the US have developed an unmanned drone designed for delivering parcels, but instead of replacing a delivery truck, it’s designed to work alongside it like an airborne postman.

Comprising of eight rotors, ‘HorseFly’ is an autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by the University of Cincinnati and AMP Electric Vehicles.

When a package is loaded onto the drone, it scans the barcode to get the address and delivers it before returning to the truck. It then returns to the truck to await the next parcel and recharges in two minutes using a large battery on the back of the truck.

This shuttle method enables the drone to make a greater number of shorter flights. “The fact that the delivery trucks are sufficiently scattered within almost any region during the day makes for short flights, as opposed to flying from the warehouse for each delivery,” said Steve Burns, CEO of AMP.

Picture Credit UC'S Tom Robinette

Last year Amazon unveiled Prime Air, a conceptual delivery system using unmanned drones. But with Prime Air, the drone had to return to the warehouse after each drop-off, meaning the distance the drone could travel was limited by how long the battery lasts.

Because HorseFly is attached to a delivery truck and only makes short deliveries, it will be able to deliver packages to places further afield.

The team worked hard to create the hardware and software for HorseFly. Its autonomous control system has been designed to respond to external forces such as gusts of wind and ensure it doesn’t fall out of the sky.

After the success of this initial project, the team intends to develop more octorotors.

“There is no textbook on multi-rotor aircraft design. Here we have been pioneering this effort, and we've come up with something successful,” said Kelly Cohen, associate professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at the University of Cincinnati. (Via Gizmag)


Picture credit: Lauren Cohen and Tom Robinette, UC