On April 9, 2020, Universal filed a patent application, shared generously on Twitter by the Universal Orlando Automated Permit Bot, for what appears to be their idea of a hybrid gondola system. Like most patents, the wording is very abstract and slightly confusing even when sifting through the words with a fine tooth comb, but I’ll try to break down a rough analysis of what could be. Remember, this is still just a patent application, so while it may indicate what Universal is working on in the future, it doesn’t actually mean it will be brought to life.
The abstract description of this gondola system states:
An amusement park system in accordance with present embodiments includes multiple separated park areas, an autonomous vehicle configured to drive along ground surfaces within the multiple separated park areas, and a gondola system configured to transport the autonomous vehicle between the multiple separated park areas. The amusement park system further includes a control system configured to operate the autonomous vehicle to engage with and disengage from the gondola system to facilitate transport of the autonomous vehicle by the gondola system.
If the description is relatively straightforward, then a gondola system will be used to transport vehicles to a gondola station, engage with the gondola station, transport to a separated park area via gondola, disengage at the separate park gondola station, and then drive along ground surfaces within the separated park area. The idea of this being a reality is wild.
However, this is just the base portion of the patent. Reading further into the summary, there are also further descriptions of how the actually gondola cars could work. One method is having gondola arms attached to the tops of the gondola vehicles that would engage and disengage in the gondola stations, and drive in the separated areas with the gondola arm still attached. In another configuration, gondola attachments would be on the cable path via an arm and when a vehicle pulls into the gondola station it would connect to the gondola arm via a locking device and then travel on the path. Another configuration says the gondola station may include a vehicle compartment would travel the gondola path, and a vehicle would drive to a gondola station, enter the vehicle compartment, engage with the compartment, and then be carried along the path.
There are a lot more details in the patent and we’ll keep combing through to spot any other interesting details, but it definitely sounds intriguing. Considering Universal’s Epic Universe is going to be separated from Universal’s main campus, they really need a way to transport guests over highways, lakes, and more, and a gondola could be a very efficient way to do so.