- Washington D.C. will be the first U.S. city to get food delivered by autonomous wheeled robots, according to Technical.ly.
- The delivery droids are from Starship Technologies, an Estonian startup, and will begin deliveries by the end of this month. Starship was founded by two Skype co-founders.
- According to the company, D.C. was picked for the pilot program because of its time zone proximity to Europe as well as having less congested streets than other options.
Autonomous bot delivery of food and other products has been a long-held promise, with Amazon’s plans to set up a commercial drone system potentially serving as a glimpse into the future of shipping and omnichannel shopping. Now, after a few months of trials, autonomous delivery — both by flying and ground-based, wheeled drone — is becoming a reality around the world.
In mid-November last year, Domino’s announced it made its first pizza delivery by drone in New Zealand via a partnership with the tech firm Flirtey. At the start of December, Just Eat also used a Starship wheeled bot to deliver a full takeaway meal in Greenwich, London. And later that month, Amazon finally announced its first commercial delivery in rural Cambridge, U.K.
The notable absence here is the United States. While some brands like 7-Eleven have been successfully completing regular commercial deliveries via aerial drones, the capabilities remain decidedly limited. Tight regulations from the FAA restrict drone airspace and prevent many devices from flying outside of line-of-site from drone operators, keeping the delivery chain hyper-local and likely limited to more rural areas for the time being.
Ground-based droids like the Starship bot operate outside the purview of such regulations and might see more commercial traction in the near future if the D.C. pilot tests are popular.