When people talk about drone delivery, it’s highly likely images of Amazon’s delivery drone zipping above your head may immediately come to mind. That’s because aerial delivery drones have been getting all the hype. Eeva Haaramo recently wrote an article that talks about another type of delivery drone. This delivery drone is an almost completely autonomous, self-driving delivery robot.
“We realised it’s possible to do deliveries using a small land-based robot and it would be much simpler and safer than drones, for instance,” Starship Technologies CEO Ahti Heinla told ZDNet.
Starship is the Estonian venture of two former Skype co-founders, Heinla and Janus Friis, who revealed the prototype of their self-driving delivery robot in November.
The robots, which resemble stylish cooler boxes on six wheels, can autonomously roam pavements at a brisk walking speed of 4mph and deliver the equivalent of two full shopping bags of about 20lb (9.1kg) in less than 30 minutes.
You may have noticed that they keep referring to Starship Technologies creation as a delivery robot, not a drone. I have to take issue here since drone has become such a catch all term.
At the risk of oversimplifying things:
Originally, drone referred to an unmanned aircraft preprogrammed with a flight plan, in which the aircraft would fly in either a straight line or around in circles until the engine would run low on fuel, and then the drone would land.
More recently, “drone” has evolved into a catchall term including any unmanned robot either preprogrammed or remotely controlled. This includes robots designed for water, land, and air use.
If your craft, robot, or whatever falls into one of the follow categories, then I’d call you a drone.
- AMR – Autonomous Mobile Robot
- AUV – Autonomous Underwater Vehicle
- UAV – Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
Of course there are gonna be all of the variations too; such as UAS, sUAS and sUAV for UAV and UGV for AMR. (Sorry about the alphabet soup.) In some cases, I’d even include:
- RPA – Remote-piloted Aircraft (Why? Many military drones require a full time operator.)
In the case of the self-driving delivery robots discussed above, I’d categorize them under AMR or autonomous mobile robot. That does put it into a class with some interesting company; Roomba vacuums fit in this category too. (Here is a link to some fun AMRs you can build at home.)
About Starship Technologies
Starship Technologies is a European technology start-up building a fleet of self-driving delivery robots designed to deliver goods locally within 30 minutes. Designed using ‘off the shelf’ components, the robots are lightweight and low-cost, enabling the company to bring the current cost of delivery down by 10-15 times per shipment.
The robots drive autonomously 99% of the time to make safe and environmentally friendly pavement/curb-side deliveries from a local hub. Launched by two Skype co-founders, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, Starship’s aim is to fundamentally reshape how goods are shipped and delivered, and make local delivery, almost free.
The company employs 30 people and has offices in London, United Kingdom, and Tallinn, Estonia. Former Skype co-founder Ahti Heinla serves as the company’s CEO and CTO, serial tech entrepreneur Allan Martinson is Chief Operating Officer and tech and mobile industry veteran Keith Cornell is Chief Commercial Officer.