Are Delivery Robots on Their Way to Your Neighborhood?

Yes, but they may not become commonplace for a few more years yet.

If you’ve been following the news lately, a number of companies are working on ways to bring you items in 30 minutes or less. Examples of flying delivery drones include Amazon’s Prime Air and Google’s Project Wing -- both of which are in the testing phase, but will likely face legislative hurdles -- plus there are many ground-based autonomous delivery ‘bots that can roll to your door with a prescription or pizza.

A few highlights on the ground-based projects:

  • An early-stage startup called Dispatch has raised a $2 million seed, led by “super angel investors” Andreessen and Horowitz. These small vehicles, including one aptly-named “Carry,” can deliver goods (up to 100 pounds) by rolling down sidewalks and on college campuses. Somewhat resembling the height of Star Wars’ R2D2, Carry will move out of the way for pedestrians and avoid other obstacles. In the UK, there’s a similar startup, Starship Technologies, that also makes small autonomous delivery robots -- about one a month at this point -- and has undergone more than 30,000 miles in tests between European and American cities.

  • In Australia, the pizza company Domino’s has turned a military ‘bot into a pizza delivery droid. Engineers from DRU, or Domino’s Robotic Unit, worked with Australian startup Marathon Robotics, to build a prototype of a GPS-based autonomous delivery drone that might just replace the pizza delivery boy in the years to come. Along with sensors that can help navigate its way and detect obstacles to avoid, the four-wheeled ‘bot can travel more than 12 miles per hour. When it reaches its destination, the customer enters a security code into their phone, which prompts the robot to open its locked compartment to retrieve the hot pizza.

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