Last March, Amazon’s futuristic delivery plan seemed ready to fly when the US awarded a patent to its drone technology. Now an industrial design student has conceived a new fleet of robotic drones that stay firmly planted on the ground. Kobi Shikar’s “transwheel” proves that unmanned delivery drones don’t all need to fly.
Transwheels are autonomous, self-balancing unmanned vehicles with retractable electric arms and GPS communication capabilities that enable each one to work in isolation or as a coordinated fleet. As with aerial drones, they can deliver goods directly to customers. Unlike flying robots, Transwheels can handle larger loads and use existing road infrastructure to conduct movements.
LED lighting allows the units to work throughout the night, and the devices can potentially replace trucks for moving shipping containers. (Not sure how that will “fly” with trucking unions).
Kobi Shankir, a student at the Shenkar School of Engineering and Design in Ramat Gan, Israel, designed the Transwheel. (That’s the same school that hatched the 3D-printed fashion line by Danit Peleg.) His concept builds upon the idea of unmanned flying drones under development by megastores Walmart and Amazon. More robust than aerial robots, the ground-based Transwheel could theoretically handle small packages as well as large cargo containers now moved by trucks. See Shankir’s video below:
Autonomous delivery systems have been under development for some time now, largely stymied by regulatory issues. The technology is incubating in tandem with development of driverless cars, with many parallels in functionality. It’s tantalizing to consider what could result if researchers cross-pollinate their discoveries and designs. Add to the mix the fiscal fitness of the developers – Tesla, Amazon, Google, et al. Highways may soon look very different from how we now know and use them.
Shikar says he hopes to develop the Transwheel concept into a working prototype if he can find a partner to develop it with.
Images courtesy of kobi shiker