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Passenger Drone Approved for Remote Deliveries

It's like a smart car chassis mounted to an octocopter. Also, even smaller cockroach robots and a giant beach ring.


It's HAMR Time

Researchers from Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have developed a next-generation robot inspired by the cockroach. Why the cockroach? Perhaps it's because the natural counterpart is small and agile, or maybe because it could stand up to a nuclear holocaust; only time will tell.

The HAMR-JR is a microbot that can run, jump, carry heavy loads, and make sharp turns. It's the descendant of Harvard's Ambulatory Microrobot (HAMR), only this one is half the size -- about as big as a penny. According to the researchers, HAMR-JR is one of the most dextrous microrobots ever made. 

Now, this wasn't just an exercise in micro-mechanical pests, but rather an attempt to prove that the pop-up manufacturing process used to build microbots could be used to build robots at various scales, from the very small to large industrial robots.

HAMR-JR was made using PC-MEMS (printed circuit microelectromechanical systems), a fabrication process that etches the robot's components into a 2D sheet and then pops them out into a 3D structure. 

HAMR-JR has a 2.25 cm-long body and only weighs about 0.3 grams. It can run nearly 14 body lengths per second, which makes it one of the fastest microrobots in the world.

The Social Distancing Beach Ring

Designers at New Jersey-based Coolbreeze have developed a design that just may solve social distancing problems, and they're starting with the beach. 

The company has developed the Beach Ring, a stainless spring steel, six-inch nylon band with a 12-foot diameter. It gives the person in the middle a recommended six feet of separation. 

Like Mr. Noodlehat before it, the Beach Ring is the type of innovation that perfectly pairs simplicity with the opportunity to make you ask, "Why?" Especially when, for example, you're in the sand, which may be the easiest surface in which to draw a line. You know, the idiom and all. 

According to the company, the ring was made by beach bums for beach bums, but it has uses that extend beyond the beach, like the park, outdoor concerts, movies in the park, or college events. Honestly, I wish something like this would work in the lawn seats, but you typically have enough trouble trying to keep people off your hands -- and I'm unsure that the post-COVID world will be more respectful of personal space. 

Now available for pre-order, Beach Rings are available in red and blue, and retail for $40, with a family pack available for $105. 

Passenger Drone Approved for Deliveries

A manufacturer of autonomous aerial vehicles, EHang, says the era of urban air mobility is coming. But unlike the forward-looking statements from drone manufacturers before them, EHang received the world's first commercial pilot approval to operate passenger-grade AAVs for air logistics. 

When the Civil Aviation Administration of China approved the EHang 216 passenger-grade AAVs for air logistics purposes, it became the world's first AAV company authorized by a national aviation authority to use drones capable of heavy payloads.

The company will now move into testing air logistics services, bringing transport cargo between ground and hilltop and shore and islands at remote sites in China.

The drone doesn't just solve last-mile issues that companies like Amazon have co-opted the Unites States Postal Service for in the past. The drone can reach very remote areas with significant payloads. Unlike the small drones we've seen from Amazon Air, this is essentially a smart car chassis on an octocopter -- though that may pose a few more logistical issues when it comes to available landing zones. 

Standing about six feet tall and 18.5-feet wide, the drone has a 20-mile range when carrying a max payload of about 330 pounds. It also has a top speed of 80 mph. With a 20 mile range, it can reach remote areas, but not that remote. 

EHang is a fascinating company. It recently signed a deal with an urban air mobility theme hotel to offer air tourism to hotel guests aboard the AAVs. It also announced a plan to build the world's first e-port, a three-story terminal building with four landing pads on the roof, and that's just cool.

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