dolaGon UTV serves as an autonomous ski lift
Backcountry ski hills may lack crowds, but they also lack lifts to take skiers back up the slope. The dolaGon Autonomous Ski Lift Vehicle was created with this problem in mind, as it follows skiers down the slope then takes them back to the top for another run.
Designed by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Seth Neubardt and engineer Logan Banning, the prototype dolaGon is actually a modified Polaris Ranger UTV (utility task vehicle). Capable of seating up to six people, its added extras include a GPS module, a LiDAR sensor, and snowmobile-like tracks in place of its four wheels.
The idea is that the dolaGon will initially pick a group of skiers up from a base station, then autonomously make its way along pre-mapped backcountry trails, ultimately delivering the skiers to the top of a hill. As it does so, it will utilize its GPS to orient itself, and use its LiDAR to avoid obstacles.
After getting out of the vehicle, users will instruct it to make its way back to the bottom of the hill. They will then set about skiing down the slope, while the slower dolaGon heads down on its own. Upon reaching the bottom, they'll just get back into the vehicle once it arrives, after which it will autonomously take them back to the top.
For more adventurous types who are into blazing new trails, the dolaGon can also be driven manually.
According to a report on GearJunkie, plans call for sales of the vehicle to be limited to companies such as private guiding agencies, where it will be used by groups that include at least one experienced guide.
There's currently no word on when it may enter use. In the meantime, you can see it in action in the video below.
Backcountry skiers in need of a lift might also want to check out the Zoa PL1, which is a portable electric tow rope system which users temporarily install on hills themselves.