Honda to pioneer capable aircraft and remote robots


See Honda, and many people think of the Odyssey minivan or the intrepid small Civic.


But today Andrew Tarantola at Engadget reports on a number of quite different products in the making at this flagship automaker’s offices, pointing out the diversity of what Honda offers, and how that is going to broaden moving forward.


“Honda builds much more than cars and trucks — power equipment, solar cells, industrial robotics, alternative fuel engines and even aircraft are all part of the company’s production capacity,” Tarantola writes, before enumerating a few more future products slated for research and design work.


Included in the list is what Tarantola refers to as “Avatar-style remote telepresence robots” and “electric VTOLs.”


So what’s a VTOL?


For those not hip to modern high-tech aircraft acronyms, VTOL means “vertical takeoff and landing” aircraft. This capability is often accomplished through powerful rotors or multidirectional thruster technologies. Honda reportedly will include a lithium ion battery and a gas turbine in their VTOL design.


Okay, so what’s a “telepresence robot?”


Tarantola’s coverage describes “Avatar robots” that will be able to work on the behalf of human operators, so that we can experience things through them vicariously.


“The company envisions a future where people are unencumbered by space and time, where telepresence robots have visual and tactile acuity rivalling that of humans,” he writes. “Rather than hopping on a plane to inspect remote factory floors or attend product demonstrations in person, tomorrow’s workers may simply don VR headsets and step into the body of an on-site humanoid robot.”


If all of this sounds so high-tech it’s almost scary, Tarantola suggests the company will not roll out many of these technologies until 2040. Meanwhile, it’s working with Japan’s JAXA space agency on robot technology applied to lunar rovers, and, amazingly, a fuel-cell powered technology for the lunar surface.


So next time you think about Honda, think about whether it might pop up in some of your innovation funds or other plays on cutting-edge technology.