The recent COVID pandemic had put a lid on air travel. But that is now slowly lifting, and more people are venturing out. Airports are responding with new robots offering food delivery services.
The International airport in Northern Kentucky is currently using these Ottobots, made by Ottonomy, a robotics company. The Ottobot is a four-wheeled autonomous robot.
At the airport, in the Concourse 8 area, travelers can use a dedicated app to purchase food, beverages, or travel products from select stores. The location of these stores may be anywhere in the airport. Once the travelers have placed their orders, staff, at the store, place the items within the cargo compartment of the Ottobot and send them on their way.
While making its way through the airport, the Ottobot robot uses sensors and a LIDAR module to avoid people and obstacles. Ottonomy has designed a contextual mobility navigation system for the robots to allow them to keep track of their whereabouts. Apart from the contextual mobility navigation system, the robots also use other indoor navigational systems like Bluetooth beacons, readable QR codes, and Wi-Fi signals.
Customers can see the Ottobot on their mobiles, thanks to the app, which alerts them once it reaches their location. The app also has a QR code specific to their order. Once the customer holds their QR code for the robot to scan, it unlocks and opens its cargo compartment lid to allow them to retrieve their purchase. User feedback from a pilot project in the airport helped design the current robotic delivery system.
Not only in airports but there are several urban delivery robots also that use four wheels to move along city sidewalks. The wheels are special, as they can pivot and are mounted on articulated legs.
Delivery robots usually have smart lockable cargo boxes and two sets of powered wheels on their bottom. While autonomously moving along a smooth pathway, this arrangement works fine. However, for moving over curbs, climbing upstairs, or for traversing regular obstacles.
Piezo Sonic, a Japanese robotics company, has developed Mighty, the special delivery robot. They have based their design on a concept for robots exploring the moon:—: it does not have smooth sidewalks.
Mighty has four independently powered wheels. They can point either straight ahead for normal movements, or pivot to point sideways to allow the robot to move sideways in one direction or the other. The four wheels can also pivot part of the way outward or inward, forming a circle for Mighty to spin around on the spot.
Additionally, each wheel has its own hinged leg. Therefore, when the robot moves over an uneven surface, each leg can bend independently to compensate for the difference in height. This helps to keep the main body of the bot level. Mighty can use this feature to climb shallow sets of stairs.
Mighty uses GPS to navigate cities like other delivery robots. It also has cameras and LIDAR sensors for dodging hazards and pedestrians. It can easily carry a 20-kg cargo, climb 15-degree slopes, and step over obstacles up to 15 cm tall, all the while attaining a top speed of 10 km per hour.