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Kawasaki's K-RACER Completes Testing of Its Delivery Robot

The testing was conducted to help solve various problems like labor shortages in the logistic industries.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries Limited has just announced the successful completion of the proof-of-concept testing for its latest unmanned cargo transport vehicle. Dubbed the Kawasaki Researching Autonomic Compound to Exceed Rotorcraft (K-RACER) X1, it is an unnamed vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft with, in this case, an underslung ancillary delivery robot.

The testing was conducted with an eye to helping solve various societal problems like labor shortages in the logistic industries. 

The Kawasaki group, as part of its "Group Vision 2030", has developed the K-RACER to help attain the group's visions for the future. These include, but are not limited to, “A Safe and Secure Remotely-Connected Society,” “Near-Future Mobility” and “Energy and Environmental Solutions.” It is the second part of the vision that this new unmanned VTOL delivery robot. 

The K-RACER is the first step to fully autonomous deliveries

K-RACER adopts several improvements to aircraft flight-tested in 2020 by the company and is able to transport around 220 lbs (100 kg) payload as well as loading and unloading mechanisms. The main VTOL aircraft is powered by a Ninja H2R motorcycle supercharged engine built by, of course, Kawasaki Motors Limited. 

In a statement on the matter, Kawasaki explained that "the delivery robot used together with the unmanned VTOL is based on a delivery robot designed to achieve smooth, stable operations even on rough and bumpy roads, developed utilizing Kawasaki’s knowledge in robotics and technologies behind the off-road capabilities of its motorcycles and side-by-sides. This delivery robot was modified to enable boarding onto an unmanned VTOL."

kawasaki racer
Overview of the PoC testing. Source: Kawasaki

The current round of testing simulated a continuous, interlinked sequence of unmanned delivery operations whereby the delivery robot was loaded with cargo and automatically boarded the unmanned VTOL.

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This was followed by an automated flight of the VTOL with the delivery robot onboard, and then landing, automatic delivery robot disembarkation, and delivery of the cargo to the final destination.

The test was, as previously mentioned, carried out with an eye to the eventual goal of fully autonomous delivery of payloads without the need for any human input. 

The near future plans for the VTOL are for it to partake in the "Unmanned VTOL Cargo Transport Platform Development Project" being carried out on commission from Ina City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan.

"Responding to labor shortages in the logistics industry and other challenges faced by society, Kawasaki will make use of results and information gained from its latest PoC testing to realize a rapid cargo transport system that is not affected by road-traffic conditions or topographic features such as seas, mountains and rivers, and reliable logistics services to locations deep in the mountains or on remote islands," Kawasaki explained. 

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Building on the results of this round of testing, Kawasaki will undoubtedly be looking to further refine their designs in order to make the K-RACER and its robot ally come to the skies near you very soon.

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