Do delivery “ground drones” stand a chance on the streets of London?

Remember last year when a hitchhiking robot from Canada was found beheaded in Philadelphia? Well, that particular display of human kindness hasn’t dissuaded one company from deploying six-wheeled drones to deliver shopping to Londoners.

The battery-powered robots look like water coolers on wheels, can carry around three bags of shopping and travel up to 4mph. They are described as “ground drones” by their creators, Starship Technologies – led by co-founders of Skype, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis.

The plan is to roll out the drones in Greenwich, with the robots carrying parcels or shopping to distances 30 minutes or less from the company’s base. Starship Technologies will notify you when your delivery is ready, and after you’ve confirmed you’re okay to receive it they’ll pop it into one of their robots. The robot will then travel on its merry way to you using GPS tracking, as well as various sensors to avoid bumping into people.starship_technologies_ground_drone_2

Right, so the obvious question here is: how long before one of these ends up in a canal?

For security, the contents of the robot can only be accessed by the recipient via their smartphone. The robots also have nine cameras to capture the faces of potential vandals, and microphones and speakers to ward off any dangers.

However, it’s hard to imagine the little robots surviving on their own in London. The company is allegedly looking at the potential of using drones to police their workforce, which sounds terrifying. I’m not sure even this will be enough to stop the wonderful British habit of drawing crudely shaped cocks on things.

On a more serious note, there are clear environmental benefits, as the battery-powered robots have a much smaller carbon footprint than car trips to the shops. They also stand to lower the cost of deliveries by cutting out the need for humans, which may be a good thing for customers but potentially a bad thing for a human workforce.

Postmen might not have anything to worry about just yet, but with automation set to claim 11 million jobs by 2036 the cute water coolers might just be a glimpse into a very literal future of meals on wheels.  

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