Delivery robots and drones are the stuff of science fiction, but many companies have been slowly but surely working to make that a reality in the past years. The need for autonomous delivery methods, however, became even more apparent last year because of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Starship was able to discern that need and deployed its fleet of robots to students in several campuses in the US, and it is now expanding its operations with more robots, and more customers served.
Food delivery robots have caught the attention of media even before the pandemic hit, mostly due to their novelty. Starship, in fact, started serving college students back in 2019, starting with George Mason University in Virginia. Over the years, the operation has grown to include 1,000 autonomous robots wheeling food to 20 different campuses in 15 states.
With many businesses and operations switching to no-contact or contact-less systems, the need for such delivery systems has become even greater, and Starship is expanding its operations to serve even more students across the nation. It is adding 85 more robots to deliver food to four additional campuses.
Starship has already started its service at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach, Florida, with a small number of merchants and hours. August 16 will see the start of operations at the University of Kentucky, while students at the University of Illinois Chicago can expect their turn this Fall. The company’s roster of participating merchants includes Panda Express, Subway, Panera Bread, and, of course, Starbucks.
The fully electric Starship robots are capable of carrying a payload of 20 lbs and can travel at 4 mph. The autonomous food bots can navigate inclined curbs, but, due to their design, can’t overcome stairs. They won’t be the fastest nor the most effective food couriers, of course, but some might be OK with the tradeoffs if it means keeping themselves safe from the dreaded virus.