Fairfax City, Virginia, has partnered with Starship Technologies to allow restaurants to use its sidewalk drones for contactless deliveries in a limited area during the coronavirus outbreak.
So far, restaurants using them include Havabite Eatery, Coyote Grille, Hamrock’s Restaurant, The Wine House, High Side and Essential Groceries, with more signing on soon.
Starship’s fleet of 20 autonomous on-demand robots delivery daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. in an area bordered by Roberts Road to the east, Chestnut Set to the West, GMU to the south and Fairfax Boulevard to the north.
The small, cooler-sized, wheeled drones are already a familiar site in Fairfax City. They’ve been delivering food and snacks to students and faculty on the George Mason University campus since January 2019.
Each robot can carry up to 20 pounds, or about three shopping bags of goods. Users summon them through an app, can follow the drone’s progress on a map, and then use the app to unlock them once the delivery arrives.
“These delivery robots are just one more tool for businesses and residents to connect directly with one another during a difficult time. Our city’s businesses continue to be leaders in their industry and I applaud them for taking advantage of this new technology,” said Christopher Bruno, Fairfax City’s economic development director.
The Fairfax City Economic Development Authority is providing $10,000 as part of the drone delivery program to reduce the delivery commission charged to restaurants.
For customers who order, the delivery fee is $2.99.
The robots are outfitted with multiple cameras, two-way audio to communicate with people they interact with, can navigate hurdles like curbs, and can travel in rain and snow. They are monitored by humans who can take control at any time.