Could Unmanned Drones Show Up in Our Neighborhoods?


By Staff Reports

(DGIwire) — People over 50 might have first seen drones in cartoons such as “The Jetsons” and other TV programs set in the future. In these shows, someone—usually the evildoer trying to rule the world—has access to an unmanned flying machine that can target and fire on unsuspecting targets. To early viewers, the feasibility of drones was about equal to Wile E. Coyote popping up unharmed after being flattened on the tarmac. Many a young person played with drones in the form of remote wireless planes that could be purchased or built from prefabricated kits.

In the peculiar way that life can seem to resemble fiction and vice versa, drones moved from drawing boards to practical application. The military was among the first to benefit from drone research and development. Drones with limited capabilities were used as early as 1849 when the Austrians attacked Venice with unmanned balloons loaded with explosives, according to Monash University’s archive on the history of aviation. Norman Longmate, in his book How We Lived Then, notes that the first pilotless aircraft, known as “flying bombs,” were built during and shortly after World War I.

The military use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is now an important arena of defense development. As technology has advanced, the consumer market has kept pace with sophisticated drones for recreation. These include the H-King Darkwing, an ultra-modern craft designed specifically for remote-control airplane enthusiasts. This model sports a wingspan wide enough to allow large cargo space for attaching accessories such as video equipment and radios. Other industries are enthusiastically hitching their hopes to drones—and not the hobbyist kind. According to an August 2014 article in The Economic Times,Amazon is testing aerial drones, which could mean we might see UAVs flying our parcels to our doors in the future.

Still sound far-fetched? Another company, AMP Electric Vehicles, based in Cincinnati, is helping to develop the HorseFly™ octocopter. The rationale behind HorseFly is energy efficiency. HorseFly is designed to live on the roof of an electric delivery truck—the Workhorse E-GEN™ truck developed by the company.

Like a falcon loyal to its falconer, HorseFly is being designed to be able to fly off to deliver packages weighing up to 10 pounds to specific street addresses—essentially on autopilot—while the truck itself is driven through the local neighborhood. HorseFly’s software is being develped to be able to scan the barcode on the package, determine the path to the delivery address via GPS, and ultimately lift off. Once the package is delivered, HorseFly would then return to the truck’s roof, where a battery charging station could quickly ensure it is sufficiently powered up in time for the next delivery.

Steve Burns, CEO of AMP Electric Vehicles, says, “The HorseFly-Workhorse combo could completely transform the cost and carbon footprint of delivery. We believe truck-paired drones can save enough time and money to make the fulfillment industry take notice.”

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