Evanston has been selected as one of only three sites for a new pilot project testing the feasibility of using drones to transport people from place to place.
Residents will be able to sign up to participate as early as next week.
The transportation flyers, known as “Droneshaws,” will be roaming City streets as early as June. Design permits the computer-controlled devices to pick up passengers using specially designed hooks that latch on to loops extending skyward from precisely engineered harnesses worn by passengers.
Droneshaws swoop down out of the sky in response to signals send by harness-clad passengers; the dronehook snares the harness loop; and former pedestrians are whisked immediately to the pre-programmed location they selected by speaking into a small microphone attached to the harness itself.
For example, a participant could step outside of class, climb into her harness, say, “South Boulevard Beach,” and moments later find herself snared, lifted, flown, and deposited on the beach.
The pilot project will start in smaller venues at first, though if successful could become a global phenomenon.
“We selected Evanston because of the students, of course, but also the proximity to the lake and the clear corridor it provides,” said Droneshaw CEO Hannibal Schmaltz. “That, and the welcome staff and students gave us when we demonstrated the very first Droneshaw here in 2014.”
Some might recall the 2014 incident, when a willing student bounced and scraped along Ryan Field before adjustments were made to the Droneshaw’s calibration. “All of that has been worked out,” said Mr. Schmaltz. “All new Droneshaws are equipped with precise and ever-adjusting gyroscopes accounting for height, weight, wind, temperature and other factors.”
Not everyone welcomes the new transit possibilities.
“What about the birds?” read a sign held by a small group of protesters at the most recent demonstration of Droneshaw technology. “I have no idea what that was about,’ said Mr. Schmaltz. “A Droneshaw has never killed even a single bird. The drones emit a rather shrill sound, and birds don’t come near.”
There are some 200 spots open for anyone interested in signing up. Visit “www.droneshaw.com” before registration closes.