Starship robot delivery – a realistic answer to drones?

There has been a lot of copy written on the prospect of drones delivering parcels to customers. Move out of the way flying robot – enter the Starship buggy that will be able to deliver a family’s groceries to a customer via road within an hour of the order for £1 per delivery.

Drones have repeatedly made the news as the likes of Amazon have pitched the idea of airborne delivery to customers for quite some time. Surveys among customers always seem to show a cool response to the idea of the skies buzzing with drone parcel delivery systems. Australia Post has developed a system that costs AUD $10,000 per drone, which would take a lot of time to get return on investment and only be able to deliver parcels of up to 2kg.

Enter the Starship grocery delivery system. This is a road going system that carried up to 20kg of groceries to the customer at a sedate 4mph and cost around £1 per delivery, and could hit the UK’s streets within a year.

The system answers a lot of problems in the grocery delivery business. Cost is a major factor and many grocery delivery businesses lose money compared to letting the customer go to a shop to get their goods. They get around this with economies of scale, encouraging customers to do their weekly shop with offers of free delivery for orders around £60 or more. Security is another issue, and the system only allows the person who has ordered the goods to open a locker on the robot using their smart phone. Safety is addressed by speed, and regulation will be addressed as well because they will not be restricted in busy airspace such as London and New York.

The Starship, developed by Skype founders Ahti Heinla and Janua Friis, is about to be trialled at a number of locations around the UK including Greenwich in London. In terms of giving so many answers to the questions posed against drones, keeping one’s feet on the ground may well be the answer.