Starship Technologies claim their little robots have already met over 400,000 people, driving over 50,000 miles between them, without a single incident or encountering any difficulties. This contradicts the concerns of Bryan Roberts, an analyst at TCC Global (a company unconnected to Just Eat, self-described as ‘a world leader in creating retail marketing programmes designed to engage shoppers and grow retailers’ sales’) who believes attempts to move towards drone-based delivery ‘may show a naive view of human nature and people’s desire to interfere with this type of technology.’
The company’s machines, which will be sticking firmly to London’s pavements and out of the path of angry bus drivers, can travel at about 4mph, and will navigate their way to their customers autonomously, using a toolkit of cameras and sensors which feed into a sophisticated obstacle avoidance system.
Connected to the Internet at all times using 3G technology, they are even capable of sending an alert and photographic evidence back to base should any potential thieves fancy trying their hand at a free meal. A team of human operators will be at the ready in a remote command centre, should any robot run into difficulty and need a helping hand. Food can be stored in an insulated compartment in the robot’s body, and accessed using a secure code sent to customers.
Whilst the introduction of automated processes always serve as a source of anxiety for those concerned about the impact on jobs for human workers, delivery drones such as Starship Technology’s offer a host of benefits, most noticeably environmentally— powered entirely by battery with zero CO2 emissions, the robots will prove to be a far greener option than Just Eat’s current set-up, with countless short vehicle journeys emitting pollution into London’s already heavily-polluted air.
Starship Technologies was launched in 2014 by the founders of video-based online chat service Skype, who now aim to ‘do to local deliveries what Skype did to telecommunications.’ With their compartments able to contain two bags of shopping, Starship’s drones aim to provide not just food delivery, but a complete personal courier service. The company’s drones are also being trialled by Pronto, another London-based food delivery service, with contracts also signed with parcel delivery company Hermes and German retailer Metro Group.
If the robots prove as successful in London as they have overseas, Just Eat looks set to roll the service out across the UK, with Keith Cornell, Senior Adviser at Starship, indicating that 14 additional cities are in their sights, pending council approval. Perhaps the best news of all? The robots are as of yet unnamed with Cornell hinting that the public may get a say, in what may be a spectacularly naive move or (more probably) a savvy marketing ploy given recent boat-related events. Either way—Londoners, you know what to do.