Flying waiter at your service

Flying waiter at your service
Infinium Robotics CEO Woon Junyang, presents Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong with a flag delivered by a flying drone at the National Productivity Month event.

There was a drone flying towards Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

He did not move away, and people were smiling and taking photos.

The reason?

It was flying the Singapore flag towards him.

The drone is a Flying Robotic Intelligent Server (Fris) created by Infinium Robotics to increase the productivity of waiters in restaurants.

Infinium Robotics is a Singapore company located both here and in Silicon Valley, California, in the US.

The company's key business activity is in supplying robotic productivity solutions to enhance value in the food and beverage (F&B), construction and logistics sectors.

The Fris demonstration took place at a showcase yesterday at the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre for National Productivity Month 2014.

One drone served two bowls of noodles to a pair of customers, before another drone carrying the Singapore flag flew towards PM Lee.

CEO of Infinium Robotics, Mr Woon Junyang, 31, took the flag and passed it to him.

Mr Woon told The New Paper yesterday, that the idea for the smart flying robots came about during his dining experiences in restaurants here.

Mr Woon, 31, said: "In many restaurants, sometimes your food is served cold, and sometimes there aren't any waiters around.

"So that's why I thought a flying robot would work in serving food in restaurant autonomously."

One difficulty Mr Woon faced was in trying to convince people that the drones are safe and can change the way restaurant operations work.

He said: "It's understandable that people have questions about new technology.

"So we want to show that the drones are safe and that they won't hit any customers."

PRICE TAG

Work on the drones started in January this year. While there is no price tag for them at the moment, Mr Woon said it will be made as low as possible for businesses.

The drones are powered by different kinds of batteries but there are autonomous charging stations.

For example, if a drone is done serving its order, it will return to the charging pad.

The drones are controlled using an infrared tracking system and radio positioning triangulation, and the computer that is controlling them runs autonomously.

The current prototype can carry objects as heavy as 300g to 500g, but it can carry heavier products simply by scaling it up and building a stronger motor.

Mr Woon said it felt like magic when the drones first worked a few months ago in the laboratory: "There were moments of elation, even though there was still more work to be done.

"We were creating something that flies in the air.

"We're engineers, yet at the same time like magicians."


This article was first published on Oct 8, 2014.
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