Ford’s auto show drone back after safety check

Ford’s auto show drone back after safety check


Michael Martinez, The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co.’s drone is again flying at its North American International Auto Show display after the Detroit Fire Department temporarily grounded it over safety concerns Monday night.

Ford had tapped Philadelphia-based DroneCast to deliver toy versions of its Raptor truck — via drone — to visitors during the show’s press days. Officials from the automaker said they worked with Cobo Center to get clearance to fly indoors, which included liability insurance and making sure the sharp propellers were covered.

But the Fire Department on Monday night stopped Ford from flying as it checked to make sure the drone’s lithium-polymer batteries were safely enclosed. If the drone were to crash with the battery exposed, it could break and catch on fire.

After the Fire Department deemed the battery was safe, Ford was back to flying drones Tuesday afternoon.

“We collaborated with all the proper authorities and we’re happy we could make it work,” said Ford spokesman William Mattiace.

Fire department officials near Ford’s display Tuesday declined to comment.

Ford’s drone can fly as fast as 33 mph and can go as high as 400 feet outdoors. Members of the news media could text “Raptor” to a certain number, then receive a reply that their toy truck was ready to be delivered to them, by drone, at a specific drop-off location.

“For Ford it’s all about innovation and thinking about those firsts,” Mattiace said. “It’s never been done before to our knowledge at an auto show. We’re happy we could bring this fun experience to the show and make the Ford stand a little bit different.”

Ford is only flying the drones during the show’s press days; they won’t be available during public days next week.