French inventor Frank Zapata grabbed headlines around the world this summer when he flew his hoverboard across the English channel from Pas de Calais, France, to the famous white cliffs of Dover. But Bay Area commuters may soon do Zapata one better by skimming above San Francisco Bay on autonomous, single-passenger drones being developed by a Peninsula start-up company with ties to Google. The automated drones are electrically powered, capable of vertical takeoff and landing, and would fly 10 feet above the water at 20 mph along a pre-determined flight path not subject to passenger controls. The drones' rotors are able to shift from vertical to horizontal alignment for efficient forward movement after takeoff. The company behind all this, three-year-old Kitty Hawk Corp., has personal financial backing from Google founder Larry Page, now CEO of Google's parent, Alphabet, who has long been interested in autonomous forms of transportation.
So far, Agility Robotics has sold three Cassie robots (University of Michigan is a customer, for example) and has sales for another three in progress. The goal is to sell another six Cassie robots, "so optimistically 12 customers total for the entire production run of Cassie," Shelton tells CNBC Make It. "That is obviously, though, a relatively compact market, and is not why we're doing the company," says Shelton, in an interview with CNBC Make It. Indeed, the next generation of the company's legged robots will also have arms, says Shelton. And one target use for the more humanoid robot will be carrying packages from delivery trucks to your door. Shelton says his house is a perfect example of how a legged robot would assist in delivery.
Uber Eats, already one of the most popular food delivery apps, wants to elevate the game. As it works now, drivers pick up your food from a restaurant, put it in their car, drive with the goods, and then ring your doorbell with a bag full of dinner. But at the Uber Elevate Asia Pacific Expo in Japan this week, Uber unveiled a new delivery method: the drone. Uber's drone team, known as Uber Elevate, will use what it's learned from its flying car service, known as UberAir, to try to provide faster, cheaper, and more reliable food deliveries. Uber is already talking with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration about UberAir, so Uber's drone project would conceivably fit into those conversations.
You may know Airbus as that Boeing competitor that also makes planes, but the European company is in fact an defense and aerospace giant that makes helicopters, satellites, and drones, and now it's using its aircraft not just to move people, but to give those on the ground a whole new view from the skies. A year-old effort called Airbus Aerial will seek to serve climate modelers, farmers, city planners, engineers, first responders, and anybody else who needs a a particular view of the world. The company combines data from observation satellites (of which Airbus is the largest global operator), manned planes with cameras slung underneath, and drones, to get to the places others can't reach. Airbus Aerial packages it all up, and presents it neatly to the customer, via a cloud-based interface. "It's a very complex thing to just say'I need satellite data'," says Jesse Kallman, president of the company.