Whenever I conclude "I just can't imagine that working" I always have to add "but maybe I don't have a good imagination". Meet the Horsefly Optocopter, from research collaboration between the University of Cincinnati and AMP Electric Vehicles.
The newly designed, autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was developed to work in tandem with AMP's delivery trucks, creating a safe, fast and never-before-seen method of delivering goods.Gizmag and UC)
Steve Burns, CEO of AMP, explains the process like this: The HorseFly will be positioned atop a delivery truck, awaiting a package from the driver. When loaded, the HorseFly will scan the barcode on the package, determine the path to the delivery address via GPS and fly away – completely self-guided – to the appropriate destination. Meanwhile, the delivery truck will continue on its rounds. After successful delivery, the HorseFly will zoom back to the truck for its next delivery run and, if needed, a roughly two-minute wireless recharge.
"Our premise with HorseFly is that the HorseFly sticks close to the horse," Burns says. "If required, the HorseFly will wirelessly recharge from the large battery in the WorkHorse truck. 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."
The UC Press Release continues:
Key to that success and a primary reason AMP teamed with UC has been the researchers' ability to make the HorseFly safe and resilient. In addition to the sophisticated autonomous controller system, the HorseFly will have multiple built-in hardware redundancies (rotors, onboard computers, battery packs). So if, for example, multiple rotors were to fail, the HorseFly and its payload still could be retrieved safely.I'm suitably embarrassed about saying "that's impossible. It'll never work". You just need to think about the problem differently. Instead of centralized warehouses, decentralized delivery truck/charging stations - essentially mobile warehouses. The drones don't deliver everything, just the things they're good for.
"An important part of the HorseFly project is that we make a vehicle that will not drop out of the sky," Burns says. "This is the particular point that UC specializes in and where we are relying on their expertise to help us build such a safe and resilient craft."
Bezos' dream may be closer at hand than we thought.