Disney files patent for transferring vehicles between ride systems with robotic arm

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Illustration explaining the patent (© Disney Enterprises)

Disney Enterprises recently submitted a patent application for an innovative robotic arm designed to transfer vehicles, like those used in their dark rides, between ride systems. This application, titled ‘Systems and Methods for Transferring a Passenger Compartment Between Ride Systems Using Robotic Tool Changers,’ outlines an ingenious solution for seamlessly transitioning passengers between multiple tracks.

Traditionally, theme park ride systems consist of vehicles responsible for transporting passengers through exhilarating experiences. However, Disney’s patent introduces the concept of transporting these “passenger compartments”, as they call them, from one support structure to an alternative one. To accomplish this, a robotic arm which can lift the vehicles up and put them down will be used.

Disney robot arm patent rotated
Illustration explaining the patent (© Disney Enterprises)

In a nutshell, this robotic arm would establish a connection with the passenger compartment, smoothly relocating it from its current track to a different path, and subsequently disengaging from the ride vehicle. The patent application describes this process in detail, explaining that a controller can initiate the connection of a robotic arm connector to a first compartment connector on the passenger compartment of an amusement ride.

The controller then orchestrates the disconnection of the second compartment connector on the passenger compartment from a first structure connector on the initial support structure. Following this, the controller proceeds to transport the passenger compartment to a second support structure, ensuring that the second compartment connector is securely detached from the first structure connector.

This patent hopes to solve issues with loading and unloading complicated ride systems without causing any stoppages or downtime due to accommodating slower guests, or those with disabilities boarding a continuous loading ride like an Omnimover. But it will also introduce a way to incorporate a combination of ride systems into a single ride, such as allowing a dark ride vehicle to transfer to a coaster track, or a boat ride to transfer to a land vehicle. This offers a plethora of options for future ride designs.

Rise of the Resistance (© Disney)

This is not the first time Disney has tinkered with combining ride systems, as we have already seen with Rise of the Resistance. There, trackless vehicles enter through an elevator onto a simulator and end with a drop element. With this patent, Disney continues to be on the cutting edge of theme park technology.  

As this is just a patent application, there is no ride announcement attached to it. In fact, there is not even a guarantee it will ever be implemented at all. However, it is exciting to think of the possibilities that this patent can offer for the future dark ride designs.