This delivery drone lands in the street before driving to your doorstep

Sure, drone delivery may one day take off in a big way, but until advances in technology satisfy those who set the rules for flight safety, that day is still a ways off.

In the meantime, a number of tech firms have been developing wheel-based robots for deliveries to your door, with Domino’s just last week announcing plans to use such a machine for pizza delivery.

But little has been said about how a robot like this would see off a ne’er-do-well who might try to kidnap it for a free meal after spotting it trundling along the street. After all, we all remember what happened to poor ol’ HitchBot when he was out and about by himself.

In an apparent effort to combine the speed and security of aerial drones with the convenience of a true doorstep delivery service, California-based Advanced Tactics (AT) has announced that it recently completed the successful test of the Panther, a rugged-looking contraption that’s both a drone and an autonomous robot that can move along the ground. Besides taking packages right to your door, the system also offers the deliverer more options as it can land close to the customer’s yard if it happens to be inaccessible because of trees or other obstacles.

“It’s believed this is the first successful test of its kind,” AT said in a release, adding that the Panther “can land with a 5-pound package and safely drive up to the door with no propellers turning to deliver a package to the doorstep of a customer.” The mention of “no propellers turning” is a reference to the Panther’s safety features. After all, a paying customer would be pretty put out if they accidentally got their fingers sliced off when they went to grab their delivery. And anyway, the company is planning to house those propellers inside cages, providing extra reassurance in case anyone is close by when it takes off.

AT said that “the combination of Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) flight with off-road driving capabilities in a package delivery drone make the Panther … unlike anything else previously seen.” The hexacopter can lift packages weighing up to 15 pounds and can be fitted with not only cameras but also a robotic arm to lift the consignment onto a doorstep, or straight into a waiting customer’s hand. There’s even talk of adding a video screen so the recipient can interact with delivery personnel back at base if desired.

But the Panther’s versatility comes at a price, with its hefty 44-pound weight limiting its flight time to no more than 10 minutes.

The Panther, which has been in development for several years (check out last year’s demo video above), recently went on sale in the U.S. with a $2,500 price tag that’s good until April 5, after which hobbyists will have to pay a wallet-busting $8,000. But if any delivery firms are interested in the Panther, they may have a long wait putting it into service as current FAA rules prevent drones from being used as commercial delivery vehicles.

However, the wait for friendlier regulations at least gives AT time to develop and refine its technology to create a more affordable, more powerful machine that offers a new take on the idea of drone-based deliveries.

Product Review

Yuneec’s Mantis Q will make you wish you bought a DJI drone

Yuneec’s high-end drones are arguably the ones to beat in terms of flight control, design, and their photographic capabilities. But the company has struggled to make a low-end drone that’s worth buying, and the Mantis Q is proof of that…
Emerging Tech

The 10 most expensive drones that you (a civilian) can buy

OK, these drones may be a bit beyond your budget: Check out the most expensive drones in the world, from industrial giants to highest-end filming tools.
Emerging Tech

Own a drone? New rule means you have to change the way IDs are displayed

Registered drone owners will need to put their machine's ID number on the outside of the aircraft from February 23 in accordance with a new FAA rule. It means the ID can no longer be placed inside the drone's battery compartment.
Emerging Tech

Forget police helicopters, California cops are using drones to spot suspects

Police drones deployed by California’s Chula Vista Police Department helped lead to the arrest of 20 suspects over a three-month study. It's a glimpse of the future of drones in law enforcement.

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-powered website creates freakishly lifelike faces of people who don’t exist

No, this isn't a picture of a missing person. It's a face generated by a new artificial intelligence on the website Here's how the impressive A.I. works.
Emerging Tech

Global Good wants to rid the world of deadly diseases with lasers and A.I.

Global Good, a collaboration between Intellectual Ventures and Bill Gates, aims to eradicate diseases that kill children in developing nations. It tackles difficult problems with high-tech prototypes.
Emerging Tech

China’s mind-controlled cyborg rats are proof we live in a cyberpunk dystopia

Neuroscience researchers from Zhejiang University, China, have created a method that allows humans to control the movements of rats using a technology called a brain-brain interface.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s MAVEN orbiter has a new job as a communication relay for Mars 2020

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter has been collecting atmospheric readings but now is taking on a new job as a data relay satellite for the Mars 2020 mission that launches next year.
Emerging Tech

Underground volcanoes could explain possible liquid water on Mars

Last year scientists discovered there could be liquid water on Mars. Now a research team argues that for there to be liquid water, there must be an underground source of heat -- and they believe underground volcanoes could be responsible.
Emerging Tech

Of all the vape pens in the world, these 5 are the best

Vaping concentrates has become significantly more popular, especially among those that use cannabis for medicinal purposes. But don’t use just any vape pen: we found these five devices to be our favorites in 2018.

The HoloLens 2 will be announced at MWC. Here's what we know about it so far

The HoloLens 2 is ripe for an announcement. Here's what Microsoft has revealed so far, what's likely in store for the next generation HoloLens, and everything that we know about this mixed reality headset.
Emerging Tech

A river of stars one billion years old flows across the southern sky

Astronomers have identified a river of stars flowing across our galaxy and covering most of the southern sky. The estimated 4000 stars that comprise the stream were born together and have been moving together for the last one billion years.
Emerging Tech

Descending at an angle could be key to landing heavier craft on Mars

Landing on Mars is a challenge: The heavier the craft, the more difficult a safe landing becomes. Scientists propose using retropropulsion engines and angling the craft to create a pressure differential to land heavier crafts in the future.