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USPS Considering Drone Delivery Vehicle

May 13, 2015

By Paul Clinton

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Screenshot via Workhorse.
Screenshot via Workhorse.

The Workhorse Group — with its electric truck and a drone delivery system — is among the 15 companies qualified by the U.S. Postal Service as potential suppliers of its next-generation delivery vehicle.

Whether the USPS will embrace innovative technology that's poised to disrupt the "last mile" of traditional package delivery remains an open question, but Workhorse CEO Steve Burns believes an order for 180,000 vehicles that could reach $6.3 billion could play into his favor. The USPS has said it's seeking a vehicle that will serve for two decades.

"When you’ve got a deal that big, it’s a chance to leapfrog" other delivery methods, Burns said. "That’s a big enough bounty where innovation can happen. It's going to cause a quantum leap."

Burns faces tough competition on a list of potential suppliers that includes Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, Nissan, and Freightliner. The list also includes AM General, Emerald Automotive, Karsan, Mahindra, Morgan Olson, OEM Systems, Oshkosh, Utilimaster, VT Hackney, and ZAP Jonway.

Workhorse, which officially changed its name from Amp in April, would submit its E-Gen range-extended truck chassis and HorseFly package delivery drone. The company is partnering with a body builder to develop a custom service body that would include a drone deployment port in the roof that allows the drone to exit and return from delivery jobs.

The drone would use the vehicle's battery to charge its pair of Panasonic 18650 (18-by-65 mm size) lithium ion batteries. The drone uses a 3G cellular signal and point-to-point signal from the truck to reach its target. The driver uses a tablet mounted inside the truck to pinpoint the final delivery location at the address, and the landing is managed by certified pilots in a Workhorse command center.

The latest E-Gen chassis features a 200-kilowatt Sumo motor from Canada's TM4, a Panasonic 18650 battery pack, and 2.4-liter engine from Power Solutions International in the hybrid model. The engine can be set up to run on gasoline, CNG or propane autogas.

Burns is waiting for the USPS to issue its RFP this month so he can submit a detailed proposal. The USPS would then select several suppliers to build prototypes for testing. Drone operation would still need federal regulatory approval before moving forward.

Comments

  1. 1. Cliff Gant [ May 13, 2015 @ 02:12PM ]

    CAN'T WAIT,, ANOTHER GOVERNMENT BOONDOGGLE AT TAX PAYERS EXPENSE FOR THE TOP DOGS !!! and WE'll PAY THE PRICE ...

  2. 2. Despersdo [ May 13, 2015 @ 02:29PM ]

    Amen to that ! One good benefit from this...it will help sharpen up our shooting skills ...Will be free skeet shooting practice .

  3. 3. Jared Verbois [ May 14, 2015 @ 06:28AM ]

    Now how will the USPS be allowed to use these when Amazon won't?

  4. 4. somehistorian [ May 14, 2015 @ 03:16PM ]

    About time....it will be cheaper, in the long run, to replace the human drone with attitude with a mechanical drone without the attitude.

  5. 5. Mike C. [ May 14, 2015 @ 08:59PM ]

    This is such a joke, USPS will never adopt technology or drone delivery that puts their workers out of work, the postal union is too strong. They are the reason why USPS keeps on posting quarterly debts in the BILLIONS. They refuse to accept closing down any post offices, closing down Saturday service, firing bad employees, they put a stop to a partnership with Kinkos setting up postal service desks, the keep on pushing for higher salaries and benefits for the postal workers, while USPS is in the RED.

  6. 6. Jason Donovan [ May 15, 2015 @ 09:23AM ]

    Maybe the USPS should get what they do right now to work first. Sending a package to Hungary ends up in Brazil, and then eventually lost ...and they will not refund the postage cost as they say it is not their responsibility. I am sure the same will happen with the 'drone" drops the package off at the wrong mail stop. What a total joke the USPS is, just have Fedex or UPS take them over.

  7. 7. Desperado [ May 18, 2015 @ 06:25PM ]

    You all have very valid points ....Drop your elected officials line and let them know what you think and how you feel ...wouldn't hurt ...love seeing the input here and all good points ...Take It Easy ...

 

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