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Forget drones — Starship Technologies wants to deliver goods with six-wheeled robots

Two former Skype co-founders, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, are jumping on the automated delivery bandwagon this week with the launch of a new company called Starship Technologies. However, rather than using airborne, drone-based delivery methods like Amazon and Google, the company is proposing an Earth-bound delivery solution that relies on a fleet of autonomous, road-bound delivery robots.

Starship’s terrestrial delivery robots are designed to be ecologically friendly and extremely efficient. “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.” said Starship CEO Ahti Heinla.

starship technologiesThe robots are capable of carrying two grocery bags worth of goods, and can deliver their cargo in under 30 minutes from a local shipping facility or retail store. Customers can chose a specific delivery time and then track the robot as it moves towards its destination using a mobile app. The robot drives autonomously on sidewalks at speeds yup to 4 miles per hour, blending in with foot traffic. A human operator overseas the robot and is available if a safety issue requires their intervention. Once the robot arrives, only the intended recipient can unlock the cargo.

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The fleet is designed to help retailers with the “last mile” — the stage of shipping that brings the actual package to a customer’s home. This part of the delivery chain is costly to retailers and frustrating to customers who have a date, but not an exact time when their pack package will arrive. Starship’s solution is affordable, allowing retailers to ship cargo to a hub that is delivered autonomously by robots at a fraction of current last mile delivery costs. Customers also have the convenience of scheduling a delivery to fit their needs and the ability to track the package as it arrives.

Starship Technologies is currently testing and demonstrating prototype robots to interested service partners. The company plans to launch its first pilot robot delivery system in the US, UK and other countries beginning in 2016.