Panther Drone Deliver Packages by Water and Land

A four-wheeled drone’s first aerial package delivery test showed off a special touch by also driving up to the doorstep of its pretend customer. That capability to deliver by both air and land makes the Panther drone an unusual competitor in the crowded drone delivery space. But the drone’s limited delivery range may pose a challenge in competing against the delivery drones of Google and Amazon.

Unlike most delivery drones designed purely for flight, the Panther drone resembles a four-wheeled robot with six rotors extending out from its sides. That design leverages the earlier “flying car” development efforts of Advanced Tactics Inc., a company based in Southern California. Previously, Advanced Tactics spent time developing it's “Black Knight Transformer” flying car with U.S. military missions in mind. The Panther drone appears to be a miniaturized version of the larger Transformer with commercial drone delivery as one of the several new possible roles.

“The Panther can fly at over 70 mph and has a flight time with a five-pound package of well over six minutes,” says Don Shaw, CEO of Advanced Tactics Inc. “With a two-pound package and larger battery, it can fly well over nine minutes.”


Panther Drone Tradeoffs

The good news for the Panther’s delivery drone aspirations is that its versatility could make it easier to deliver packages. Delivery drones will eventually face the challenge of navigating neighborhoods with obstacles such as trees and power lines. In addition, drone developers must figure out how the drones will safely deliver packages into the hands of customers without risking any drone-on-human accidents.

Some delivery drone efforts such as Google’s Project Wing have attempted workaround solutions such as lowering burrito deliveries to the ground with a cable. By comparison, the Panther could simply land in any open area—such as on a local road—and then drive to the doorstep of customers. It could even drive inside the doorways of businesses or access warehouses through their loading bays.

But air and ground versatility may have come at the cost of delivery range. That is because the ground mobility drivetrain adds extra weight that the Panther drone must expend battery power on lifting whenever it flies through the air. A future version of the Panther drone with a robotic arm to handle packages could potentially be heavier and shorten the delivery range even more. (On the other hand, Shaw pointed out that the drone can drive for hours on the ground at up to five miles per hour.)

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