The plans by the likes of Amazon and Walmart to try drone based deliveries have been well publicized, but this isn’t the only delivery orientated innovation going on.
The team behind Skype have recently launched an automated delivery robot that is capable of carrying the equivalent of two grocery bags (ie ~ 10kg) up to 5 kilometers.
The robots, developed by Starship Technologies, aren’t travelling via air however, but instead trundle along our footpaths and roads to its destination.
The hope is that as the robots are very much earthbound, they will get away from many of the concerns currently facing drone based delivery services.
Each device is equipped with an array of cameras and sensors, with navigation achieved via internal navigation and obstacle avoidance software, with the robot capable of travelling at 4 miles per hour.
Interestingly, the team claim that the robot is primarily autonomous, and is therefore capable of safely navigating the congested environs of your average pavement without harming pedestrians.
Indeed, human operators are only called into action in difficult situations and to communicate with pedestrians.
The robot’s "cargo hold" is fitted with a lock to prevent theft of its contents, and an app is used to allow customers to track progress and then unlock the cargo when it arrives at its destination.
Automating the Last Mile
The ultimate aim is to provide a more effective means of delivering over the "last mile," so businesses are a key market. The team suggest a core use case will be for businesses to ship goods to a local hub, and the robot to then take things from there and deliver the goods to the customers door.
The automation of this final step promises to significantly reduce the costs involved in delivery, with deliveries possible within 30 minutes of arrival at the local hub.
“With ecommerce continuing to grow consumers expect to have more convenient options for delivery — but at a cost that suits them. The last few miles often amounts to the majority of the total delivery cost. Our robots are purposely designed using the technologies made affordable by mobile phones and tablets — it’s fit for purpose, and allows for the cost savings to be passed on to the customer,” the team say.
It’s believed that a prototype will be trialed near the company’s London office in Greenwich early next year.
Check out the video below to see the robot in action: