Lockdown 2.0: Shopping Robots Deliver Goods in UK Town

Robots are delivering goods in Milton Keynes, England. (Image: YouTube/Screenshot)

Due to the CCP coronavirus lockdown, people in the English town of Milton Keynes rarely venture outside. This has made things like grocery shopping quite difficult. Thankfully, robots have come to their help as a fleet delivers goods to the residents, easing their burdens.  

Shopping bots

Milton Keynes has been under lockdown since March 23. Starship, which operates the fleet of robots, had been servicing the region even before the lockdown. But the lockdown imposed by the government has doubled the fleet servicing the town to 70 robots. The robots have six wheels and can carry several bags. Each of them has a height equivalent to an adult’s knee height. The company has also made a special concession to National Health Service employees.

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“Right now we are offering free delivery to all NHS workers within the community. We want to make life a little bit easier for these people in these very, very stressful times… Lots of them are doing … 80-hour weeks and they don’t have time to go to the local grocery store, so they use our robots for their shopping… We’re honored that we can be part of that solution,” Henry Harris-Burland of Starship said to Reuters.

Each robot is mounted with a bright orange flag so that oncoming traffic and people on the streets can see them and take appropriate evasive measures. Users of the service download the company’s app and order what they wish to be delivered — groceries, parcels, or takeaways. The items are collected and the robots deliver them at the user’s preferred location provided it comes within a radius of 4 miles from the business.

Users can scan an app to unlock the robot’s storage and take out the items. (Image: YouTube / Screenshot)

Once the robot arrives, the user can scan the app to unlock the robot’s storage and take out the items. The robots are capable of speeds of up to 4 miles per hour and can even travel on pavements. Starship started operations about 5 years back. Headquartered in San Francisco, it services several cities around the globe. Since April 2018, the company has finished over 100,000 deliveries in Milton Keynes.  

Drone deliveries

In other parts of the world, drones are increasingly being used for deliveries during the lockdown period. In Singapore, the first drone delivery service began by transporting almost two kilos (4.4 pounds) of vitamins to a ship. At present, offshore deliveries are done using helicopters and boats. However, these are expensive options. Using drones, the cost can be cut by almost 80 percent. The country’s civil aviation authority is working with industry players to lay down regulations for the unmanned vehicle industry.

Drone deliveries are becoming common. (Image: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)

In the U.S., Alphabet’s drone delivery company Wing has been seeing a huge rise in demand due to the lockdown, with deliveries almost doubling during early March. Since the drones can travel at speeds of about 65 mph, orders placed are usually delivered within minutes. Even Wing’s test locations in Australia have seen increased use by customers.

In the UK, the government announced that it would use drones to deliver medical supplies from Hampshire to the Isle of Wight since ferry crossings between these two places have been interrupted because of the COVID-19 scare. Experts predict the current lockdown to act as a catalyst for increased deployment of autonomous delivery solutions in the future. This would mean that a large section of employees working as delivery agents will likely have to look for alternative employment.  

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