While drones have already solved numerous problems in many commercial industries through their ability to innovate traditional methods of accomplishing tasks, technological advancements continue to be made in efforts to expand the ways in which drones can benefit both companies and consumers. While traditionally drones have been thought of solely as vehicles of flight, researchers are looking at the possibility of adding wheels, giving drones the added ability to drive on the ground, as well as fly. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has recently developed a prototype system for wheeled drones that can switch between flying and driving. These UAVs will include route-planning software and will be able to calculate when the drone switches between air and ground in order to optimize battery life.
Their plan predicts a future where unmanned transportation may soar above traffic and cruise roads in small metropolitan environments. “Normal drones can’t maneuver on the ground at all. A drone with wheels is much more mobile while having only a slight reduction in flying time,” said MIT graduate student Brandon Araki in Recode. When the drone is driving it saves on battery and when it is flying it can avoid obstacles such as traffic.
It is not just institutions like MIT that are working with this concept. Uber and Kitty Hawk, which counts Google co-founder Larry Page as an investor, is also striving to make flying cars a reality one day. A representative from Uber said that it aspires to bring flying cars to U.S. airspace by 2020.