Think you can do automated fulfillment better than Amazon.com Inc.? The
online retailing colossus wants you to prove it. Every year, Amazon hosts a
robotics contest, challenging teams from universities around the globe to
develop a robot that can identify, pick up, stow, and transfer goods from
warehouse totes into Amazon’s cardboard boxes.
This year’s Amazon Robotics Challenge drew
16 teams to Nagoya, Japan. For the competition,
When the dust settled, a team from the Australian Centre for Robotic
Vision (ACRV) had won the overall title, while Nanyang Technological
University of Singapore won the picking task and MIT/Princeton of the U.S.
won the stowing task. The winning entry—ACRV’s “Cartman” Cartesian
robot—can move along three axes at right angles to each other, like a gantry
crane, and features a rotating gripper that allows the robot to pick up items
using either suction or a simple two-finger grip, according to a press release
from the center.
“Cartman” takes top honors in Amazon
The popularity of movies like
“Snakes on a Plane” and the
“Sharknado” series attests to
Americans’ fascination with the
idea of airborne shipments of
scaly carnivores with seriously bad
attitudes. But the logistics professionals at American Airlines Cargo didn’t
let the horror stories deter them when they were asked to ship two tanks of
sharks from the U.S. to South America.
Working with its partner, the Miami-based freight forwarder Four Star
Cargo, American loaded two sand tiger sharks and three bonnethead sharks
onto a pair of Boeing 777-200s, the airline said. The sand tiger sharks
flew out of New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, while the bonnetheads
departed from Miami International. All five critters were reunited in Rio
de Janeiro to begin their new life together in an aquarium in Nova Iguazu,
Brazil, according to American Airlines.
Marine animals are unaccustomed to flying coach, so the three- to four-foot bonnetheads and six- to 10-foot sand tigers were housed in two 5,000-
pound shipping tanks that held sufficient space and oxygenated water to last
the flight. American did not indicate whether the sharks chose pretzels or
peanuts for the in-flight snack service.
Peanuts, pretzels, or
Convoys of trucks loaded with relief
supplies have streamed toward
Houston since Hurricane Harvey
slammed the Texas coast on Aug.
17. But close observers might have
noticed that at least one truck
arrived in the city empty. Though it
too was part of the relief effort, that
particular truck had a somewhat
unusual mission—hauling some
sensitive cargo out of the storm-wracked zone.
In the aftermath of the hurricane, drivers for the Pittsburgh
Aviation Animal Rescue Team
(PAART) drove south from their
base at Pennsylvania’s Allegheny
County Airport to pick up dozens
of dogs that have been displaced
or left unclaimed after the storm.
They then hauled their canine cargo
to a waiting animal shelter in San
Though the rescue effort present-
ed logistical challenges, “it’s great
to be able to help out,” PAART
Executive Director Mary Withrow
said in an interview. “I’ve worked
with a bunch of hurricanes. It’s so
emotional,” she said. “Sometimes,
you see [people] who find new shel-
ter but they’re not allowed to [bring]
their pets. There’s so much loss and
sadness. But there can be happiness,
too, when pets are reunited with
PAART hauls displaced pets
around the country using two small
airplanes and a modified trailer that
can hold up to 43 dogs in crates
mounted along the walls, keeping
the animals calm with soothing
music, lavender oils, and running
water. Meanwhile, their colleagues
work the phones in a race to find
space for the animals in nearby shel-
ters, where they can be housed, pho-
tographed, and with luck, reunited
with their owners.
No dog left behind