If you wanted to have food delivered a decade ago, you were mostly limited to pizza or Chinese food — most other types of restaurants simply didn’t employ delivery drivers. But now, thanks to app-based services like GrubHub and Uber Eats, you can have pretty much any food you want brought right to your door. But it costs a lot of money to have drivers available all of the time to make those deliveries. That’s why companies have been experimenting with autonomous robots that are capable of picking up food from a restaurant and taking it to your home. The Engineering After Hours YouTube channel took a DIY approach towards accomplishing the same thing.
It has become quite clear that autonomous self-driving cars are — with a few minor caveats — totally feasible, at least in well-mapped cities with proper road signs. But the general public is still pretty suspicious of self-driving cars, which is why smaller robots that can drive on sidewalks may be the answer. We even featured a Postmates robot a couple of years ago that was designed for that purpose. Engineering After Hour’s autonomous robot does exactly the same thing. Sure, the video makes this seem like a bit of a joke, but some real engineering and great hardware went into this project.
This build started with a Traxxas Slash RC truck, which was used to avoid having to create a chassis and choose motors. A Pixhawk 4 Mini controller was than integrated to actually pilot the robot. The Pixhawk 4 Mini can be controlled with either PX4 Autopilot or ArduPilot software, both of which are open source. With a GPS antenna added, those make it possible for all kinds of different robots, including drones, to navigate autonomously. Radio signals can be used to link to a ground station to track the robot’s location, send new waypoints, and so on. Simply select a GPS location (or series of waypoints) on a map, and the robot will drive to them. Engineering After Hours has plans to add a LIDAR sensor in the future to enable obstacle avoidance. Adding a little trailer behind the robot makes it easy to carry food and other deliveries. No, you won’t see GrubHub using this robot anytime soon, but it does prove that autonomous technology is very approachable these days.