Israeli industrial designer Kobi Shikar has come up with the concept of a parcel delivery drone that will never get off the ground - and that's just fine with him.
The Transwheel Delivery Drone is a sensor-packed motorized unicycle that Shikar says could be an earthbound alternative to Amazon's futuristic plans to use drone multicopters to deliver packages to your front door.
With a package held on its 'head' by two robotic arms, the Transwheel delivery robot - still largely a concept, with no financial backers - would steer its way to its destination, where its Internet-connected camera, tapping into social media sites, would identify the recipient. It's a compromise, Shikar believes, between the need for speedy delivery and the dangers of flying drones encroaching on commercial airspace.
A series of on-board cameras would help it avoid obstacles and negotiate traffic.
Shikar's concept video clip showing Transwheel zipping down the road on a delivery run has captured imaginations, receiving thousands of views and shares on has been viewed and shared thousands of times on video site YouTube.
"I worked on a concept that is a robotic autonomous wheel that is directed by GPS and has photography systems and facial recognition with the purpose of transporting packages," said Shikar, 28, who invented the concept for his graduate project at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv.
In his workshop at Shenkar College, Shikar researched the evolution of the wheel and jotted down sketches. His first prototype was a simple cardboard wheel wired up to communicate with a toy remote control.
Using a balancing mechanism similar to the one that keeps a Segway upright, Transwheel drones could be programmed, Shikar believes, to work as a group to carry large loads. Multiple Transwheels could work together to deliver larger parcels. His concept video shows 12 scooters hauling a full-size shipping container.
He envisages a pilot program in which the robots could be put to work at airports or military air bases, and notes that the battery-powered technology is non-polluting.
"Moving to robots, to this type of transportation, can also limit human accidents that happen on roads due to extended driving and also create perseverance," he said during a summer break at Shekar college. "The pace does not change. It remains the same as opposed to people who often simply need the rest."
Gilad Davidy, a Shenkar lecturer who rides a personal transporter similar to Shikar's conceptual robot, said his student's vision is not science fiction.
"The concept is realistic," Davidy said. "Today there are drones, there is Google's project that are all in the same territory, a vehicle, transportation tool, in the air, sea and ground that transports based on data from satellites and from all different kinds of social networks,'' he added.
Shikar now hopes to gain financial backing to develop the robot from concept to reality.