Space & Innovation

At Drone Cafe, Your Drink Flies In

The drone, nicknamed Blue Jay, takes a client's order and returns with a cocktail.

Would you like a drone with your cocktail? The world's first cafe using the tiny domestic unmanned aircraft as servers has opened in a Dutch university.

The pop-up drone cafe will be serving up all weekend as part of celebrations for the "Dream and Dare" festival marking the 60th anniversary of the Eindhoven University of Technology.

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The 20 students behind the project, who spent nine months developing and building the autonomous drone, aim to show how such small inside craft could become an essential part of modern daily life.

"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," student and project leader Tessie Hartjes told AFP.

The drone, nicknamed Blue Jay, which resembles a small white flying saucer with a luminescent strip for eyes, flies to a table and hovers as it takes a client's order, who points to the list to signal what they would like.

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"The blue eyes of the first drone load" up by scanning the list to register the order, said Hartjes.

"Once it's fully loaded, then the order is ready. And another one comes with the order in a cup in the grip."

The cafe is offering four different alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails, which are either bright blue or green -- the same color as the drone's "eyes."

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The drinks are picked up and carried by a set of pinchers underneath the drone, in a bid to show that these aerial machines could be used to carry out delicate missions such as delivering medicines or even helping to track down burglars.

Each drone has cost about 2,000 euros to build, in a project funded by the university which the students say aims "to give a glimpse of the future."

Thanks to sensors and a long battery life they can fly inside buildings and navigate crowded interiors, unlike other drones, which rely on a GPS system.

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"The Blue Jay is an intelligent bird that lives in complex, social environments," the students say in a video presenting their work.

They believe the drone's applications could be endless: as extinguishers to put out fires, alarm systems to warn of intruders or mini-servants which would respond to commands such as "fetch me an apple."

"We believe that one day, domestic drones will be a part of society. One day, a drone could be a friend," says one of the students in the video presentation.

The Blue Jay is ready to serve you.

Robots and drones get a bad rap sometimes, but there's an entire industry out there designing bots and UAVs specifically designed to save human lives. Here we take a look at some of these machines, including Boston Dynamics' BigDog robot -- pictured above. Like a hydraulic St. Bernard, the robot can deliver emergency supplies to remote or hazardous areas over rough terrain.

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Toshiba's custom-designed two-arm underwater robot was constructed for the express purpose of removing debris and fuel rods from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, destroyed by an earthquake in March of 2011.

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Drone Systems' Scout UAS is designed to be used by the first arriving units in emergency situations. It can be deployed in under two minutes to provide aerial view of disasters or wildfires.

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The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed a hybrid aerial drone that can enter flaming skyscrapers and endure flames of more than 1,000 degrees Celsius. The bot can shift from flight mode to spider mode on its own, crawling up walls to navigate narrow spaces.

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S.W.A.R.M. (

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) is a volunteer network of drone owners that work with authorities in search-and-rescue scenarios. Coordinated drone searches are less expensive than piloted aircraft operations, and can cover larger areas. The group has more than 1,000 members in 42 countries.

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This concept UAV from industrial designers Frog Design can be deployed in skiing areas for both avalanche prevention and rescue. The drone could carry explosives to trigger controlled avalanches, or use its thermal cameras to locate people trapped under snow.

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Another concept UAV from Frog Design, the Firestorm uses an array of advanced sensors to move through burning buildings. Powerful LED lights and a short-wave bullhorn can be used to guide survivors to safety.

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Developed by a German nonprofit, the Defikopter is designed to deliver defibrillator units to victims in remote locations. The drone can be summoned by smartphone app and uses GPS coordinates to drop the defibrillator by parachute.

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From the Bristol-Oxford Nuclear Research Centre in England, the Airborne Radiation Mapping (AARM) drone carries special radiation detection payloads. Deployed into radioactive environments, the UAV can quickly determine whether a particular area is safe humans.

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Another innovative design from Boston Dynamics, the SandFlea can jump up to 30 feet in the air to overcome obstacles during reconnaissance missions. Onboard stabilizers keep the bot level while it's in flight, and the bot is accurate enough to jump directly into second- or third-floor windows.

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