SkyTender puts automation in airplane aisles

Fresh from its maiden flight, this drink dispenser promises to speed up relief for thirsty passengers.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read

Don't you hate waiting for the drinks cart to slowly make its way through economy class to your seat? This gadget might speed things up a bit.

SkyTender isn't quite the robot bartender that some are making it out to be, but as an automated drinks dispenser it could make flying slightly less hellish than it nearly always is.

This beverage trolley can whip up more than 30 different drinks, including soft drinks, coffee, wine, and cocktails, at the touch of a button or two.

Regular trolleys can be upgraded to SkyTenders with the installation of modular drinks cartridges that use an RFID system and a CO2 cylinder for the dispenser mechanism.

As seen in the educational vid below, SkyTender has a touch screen that rises out of the trolley. Put a cup in the dispenser, push a button on the screen, and there's your drink. A stocked trolley, which has about 8 gallons of hot and cold water on board, can prepare up to 290 drink servings.

Yes, you still need a flight attendant in the loop. Changing the drinks cartridges, keeping the batteries charged, and other maintenance tasks mean there's room for breakdowns, but perhaps no more than when conventional trolleys run out of your choice of wine.

When I told my flight attendant friend Leanne about SkyTender, she was impressed by the fact that it could save her many trips to the galley to reheat or make new pots of coffee and tea.

It also seems safer during turbulence because there are fewer things that could fly off it, she added, and fewer discarded drinks cans present an environmental benefit.

SkyTender recently took its inaugural flight on a German airline, WDL Aviation, going from Cologne to Palma, Majorca.

"Our first ever test flight was a complete success, the system operated as expected and we have generated even more interest in our innovative product, the passengers were extremely pleased with the beverage options and most importantly the quality and speed of service," SkyMax's Oliver Kloth said in a release.

What do you think? Would you be more willing to fly with a given carrier if it had automation in the aisles?