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Drone delivery has been discussed, promised and tested frequently over the past three years, with most of the focus on quadcopter and similar flying drone methods. Challenges to that model include some dangers of unregulated air traffic and a restrictive weight limit for feasible flying. Transwheel, a design concept by industrial engineer Kobi Shikar, could solve both of those problems with a reconceptualization of the best drone model for the job.
Shikar’s idea replaces the flying drone with a self-stabilizing, self-driving unicycle. The chassis rests below the payload, carrying the package on its head like an old-world porter as it bears the delivery along roads and sidewalks to its destination. Long or heavy packages could be carried by multiple, linked drones operating in concert.
A Transwheel unit would use both GPS navigation and a suite of sensors to safely get a package to its destination. A camera unit would both detect nearby obstacles while in motion and interface with a facial recognition unit to identify the recipient of their delivery. Shikar asserts that the optics are sensitive enough to recognize whether a street light is red or green, though still expresses concerns about dealing with unexpected movements from cars or pedestrians. A related problem stems from Transwheel’s low profile and small size: it would be even more difficult to spot than a bicycle or motorcycle.
Though this is a slightly different take on the idea, Transwheel is not without precedent. Amazon’s delivery drones and Google’s driverless car are clearly the conceptual parents of the robotic drone — a fact which could streamline the delivery robot’s development since both programs have done much of the heavy lifting.
Shikar’s website details models of the Transwheel working together to carry boxes above their heads or manning a full lane for a delivery. The concept remains at the design and idea stage. He has made no announcements about if and when he will move into the prototyping or development stages, but a consumer can wish.