The University of Cincinnati
has partnered with AMP Electric Vehicles
, makers of the WorkHorse all-electric delivery truck, on the HorseFly "octocopter" through an innovative partnership made possible by the University of Cincinnati Research Institute
The newly designed, autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was developed to work in tandem with AMP's delivery trucks, the goal being to create a safe, fast and innovative method of delivering goods.
“UAVs really are the way of the future,” says AMP CEO Steve Burns. “When we started seriously looking into them and how to integrate them into our business, we knew we could handle the battery motor components, but we needed someone to actually design the model for us, so we asked UC.”
At UC, Kelly Cohen, an associate professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, put together a team led by Ph.D. student Wei Wei with support from fellow students Bryan Brown, Nicholas Schwartz, Vince DeChellis and Nathaniel Richards to design and construct the UAV.
“What we’ve created with the HorseFly is a safer concept of flying,” Cohen says. “The UAV has eight rotors, and we’ve been able to demonstrate that even if one or two shut off, we can still be safe and continue the mission.”
The idea for the HorseFly is that it would 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, where it can also recharge its battery wirelessly.
“In addition to the added safety, this method is also much more efficient,” Burns says. “Delivery via truck costs around 60 cents per mile, whereas it might be around two cents a mile to deliver from a HorseFly. We want to keep down the cost of delivery for the public.”
In addition to the work on the HorseFly technology, Cohen and his team are also using the UAV technology to study fires and look at how to more effectively predict the behavior of fires
based on real-time aerial views and imbedded algorithms.