Skype Co-Founders Start-Up Starship Technologies Begins Rolling Drone Delivery Service
Starship isn’t just the name of a rocking 80’s band or an interstellar spacecraft -- it is also the name of a new company by former Skype co-founders which intends to improve local deliveries through self-driving, autonomous robots. A friendly little robot could soon be delivering your pepperoni pizza instead of a moody neighborhood teen.
Ahti Heinla, a Skype co-founder and CEO at Starship Technologies remarked, “Our vision revolves around three zeroes – zero cost, zero waiting time and zero environmental impact. We want to do to local deliveries what Skype did to telecommunications.”
Starship Technologies is getting ready to introduce small, environmentally-friendly, earth-bound delivery robots. Communications manager Henry Harris-Burlan remarked, “People don’t want drones above their backyard, above their kids' heads, because if they drop out of the sky, someone is going to get hurt.”
The robots can complete local deliveries within five to thirty minutes from a local hub and carry up to two grocery bags packed with twenty to twenty-five pounds of products. The robots moves at about four miles per hour and consume about as much energy as a light bulb. They include GPS and computer vision capability, nine cameras, and two-way audio capabilities. If the robot does encounter any issues, a human at Starship intervenes.
How does the system work? Customers will be able to choose a time slot for their delivery. During transit, the customer can track the robot’s location through a mobile app. For security, the recipient is given a pin, which they will be prompted to enter into their app when the robot arrives at their front door. The app holder is therefore the only person who can unlock the cargo.
Starship noted that after four thousand miles of testing and coming into contact with four hundred thousand people, sixty to sixty-five percent of people simply ignore the robot. Many did not even seem to notice it at all. The only time the robot really interacted with anyone other than the customer, was to politely ask a pedestrian to push the crosswalk button.
Although there are still a few kinks to work out, Starship hopes that one day the robots will have 99% autonomous capabilities. The goal is to be available 24/7 for $1 per delivery. Starship will begin testing five of these robots in Washington D.C. in September.