26 Nov 19

Robot deliveries exceed 100,000 packages

Whirring along streets on either side of the Atlantic, fleets of robots are providing an alternative, automated and environmentally clean vision of last mile delivery services.

Starship Technologies is running a delivery service on six university campuses in the USA and in Milton Keynes in the UK, with demand for its space age system growing rapidly.

“It took four years to achieve 10,000 deliveries, eight additional months to achieve 50,000 and only four months after that to achieve 100,000 deliveries. The success and reliability of Starship’s service is reflected in the figures,” said Henry Harris-Burland, Vice President of Marketing, Starship Technologies.

560,000km covered

The robots have now covered over 560,000 kilometres and made more than 100,000 commercial deliveries in over 100 cities across 20 countries. Resembling shorter versions of R2D2, from Star Wars, the robots are now commercially available in Germany and Estonia, as well as the UK and USA.

A typical Starship fleet contains about 30 robots, which are capable of autonomous deliveries within a radius of 6.4km. The robots recharge swiftly, and due to the size of their battery packs there have been no issues with overloading the local electricity grid when several are plugged into the mains at the same time.

Customers can choose the time and address of where they want their goods delivered, and can then track their deliveries through a smartphone app. When the robot arrives it sends a notification to the customer via the app. Robots cannot go inside buildings, so they meet customers at entrances.

Customers unlock the lid of the robot by pressing the unique ‘unlock’ button on the Starship mobile app. To date there have been no unsuccessful deliveries or items getting lost in transit.

Food products are proving to be the most popular items for delivery – 15,000 bananas, 9,000 sushi rolls, 8,000 coffees, 7,000 bottles of milk and 5,000 pizzas head the league table of most delivered packages.

The robots are designed to act like a pedestrian walking on the pavement, occupying the average amount of space that a human might take up. This functional approach means there are no plans to build bigger robots with greater carrying capacity.

The robots are programmed to navigate all kinds of pavements and use sensors to make safe road crossings if necessary.

“Because we map all areas we operate in, our robots know what their surroundings are and can plan according to those surroundings,” said Harris-Burland.

Interest from courier and logistics companies

He added that third party logistics and delivery companies have shown ‘lots of interest’ in the robots, while consumer reaction has been ‘overwhelmingly positive’, with children even leaving thank you notes in the robots, once they have taken their packages.

“Customers cite the flexibility of Starship’s service as a key benefit and the fact the robots are electrically powered also means they’re environmentally friendly, so customers can order their items with the reassurance that they aren’t adding to their carbon footprint,” said Harris-Burland.

Authored by: Jonathan Manning