Speed Reads

The future is arriving

This is the first robot to buy a ticket, fly on a commercial airplane

You'd think as the first robot to fly commercial, Athena would at least be in first class; instead, she boarded her flight at Los Angeles International Airport with everyone else in economy.

On Monday, Athena — along with two scientist chaperones — flew from L.A. to her new home in Germany. Researchers from Germany's Max Planck Society and the University of Southern California are programming Athena so she can go to dangerous places, like Fukushima, Japan, after the nuclear disaster. "We don't want humans to go there and sacrifice their lives," Max Planck doctoral student Alexander Herzog told Reuters. "I would like to have a robot achieve the same task, such as opening up doors and cleaning up."

Athena is still in her early stages and could have been shipped in a box like other electronic items, but the researchers were curious to see how human passengers would react to her. Also, "it's cheaper to get a seat," Herzog said.