It's no secret that flying drones are becoming increasingly useful, with most of their applications tending to involve either obtaining aerial video footage, or being loaded up with cargo by human ground crews. Imagine, however, if they could grab things. While we've already seen experimental "armed" drones, Japan's Prodrone has just unveiled a model that's actually in production.
On display this week at the InterDrone show in Las Vegas, the PD6B-AW-ARM is described by Prodrone as "the world's first dual robot arm large-format drone." Built around the airframe of the company's existing PD6B-AW model, it features two remotely-operated 5-axis robotic arms that can grasp, carry and release a payload of up to 10 kg (22 lb). Algorithms in its onboard software allow it retain stability as its center of gravity shifts while lifting objects.
Powered by two 22.2v/16,000mAh batteries, the weatherproof drone itself has a flight time of up to 30 minutes per charge, a maximum forward speed of 60 km/h (37 mph), and a maximum operating altitude of 5,000 m (16,404 ft).
Along with the obvious grasping and carrying of cargo, the company's suggested uses for the PD6B-AW-ARM also include attaching or joining items, cutting cables, flicking switches, delivering lifesaving buoys, or retrieving hazardous materials. As can be seen in the video below, the arms additionally allow the aircraft to perch on precarious surfaces such as railings.
There's currently no word on pricing, although an industrial drone like this one doubtless doesn't come cheap. If you really want a drone that can pick things up, however (and you don't care if those items are small), you could always spend US$120 on the new Parrot Mambo.