Cafes in the Netherlands have always been famous around the world, but never for showcasing the latest in technology. Now, a pop-up cafe has opened inside a Dutch university, with specially designed drones taking drinks orders and flying them back to customers.
The drone cafe, which has been open all weekend at the Eindhoven University of Technology, is part of the wider "Dream and Dare" festival celebrating the 60th anniversary of the institution. Inside the cafe guests have been giving orders and being served by tiny, flying drones.
20 students are behind the project, which has been nine months in the making. The result is an autonomous drone, nicknamed Blue Jay, that perfectly illustrates how a tiny indoor aircraft could become an everyday accessory in the homes of the future.
"It has potential as a useful tool for human kind. We see it as the next mobile phone. You choose and you programme it like you want," said student and project leader Tessie Hartjes.
While the team anticipate that drones of this kind could be used for a range of domestic chores, they put it to work in a pop up cafe, taking orders and serving drinks. The drones are using a colour co-ordination system to take and serve orders.
The Blue Jay drone has been designed with a few key concepts in mind. The first is that it needs to safely operate in tight environments. To do this, as well as having propellers closed off, it has a bunch of built in sensors allowing it to adapt to its environment in real time.
Blue Jay depends on a localisation and indoor navigation system. Several sensors are used, including optical flow and lidar to estimate its location in the room. Its Object Avoidance system detects objects using multiple ultra-wideband sensors, giving the drone the opportunity to fly around objects and continue to its destination.
Apart from recognizing potential obstacles, individual objects can be recognized through several algorithms on the drones CPU that process images coming in from the front camera.
If that wasn't enough tech for you, in order to perform the kind of tasks required in a domestic environment, the Blue Jay has been fitted with a kind of claw; something as close to a human hand as possible - although slightly creepy.
All in all it's an impressive drone, packed with technology and indicative of a wide range of possible future applications. How would you feel about having one buzzing around your home?