UCLA Launches On-Campus Robot Delivery Service Amid COVID-19 Pandemic


Since the outbreak of COVID-19, social distancing has been upheld as an effective preventive health measure. Many individuals have shifted towards minimizing or eliminating physical contact in order to lessen their chance of catching COVID-19, shifting towards online shopping and contactless deliveries.

Contactless deliveries have been extremely helpful during the pandemic, ensuring the safety of frontline workers and consumers by eliminating physical contact between the deliverers and receivers. Since contactless deliveries are the most pertinent within the food industry, UCLA has taken contactless food deliveries to the next level with the utilization of robots.

UCLA has partnered with a company called Starship Technologies —a company founded by the same people who founded Skype— to enhance delivery efficiency with the usage of autonomous robots.

“Our robots have 10 cameras on them … and multiple different sensors, ultrasonic sensors, GPS, and rotational sensors, so they can determine where they are to the nearest inch,” Jeff Johnston with Starship Technologies tells KTLA.

Currently there are multiple food delivery robots on the UCLA campus, however as of now only three of the seventeen restaurants on the UCLA campus are using robot deliveries. UCLA is in the process of having robots deliver from all the restaurants on campus.

The delivery robots are compact yet strong, able to “carry about 20 pounds or about three grocery bags worth of items. There’s also a special holder inside that can accommodate up to six drinks,” according to KTLA.

From pick up to drop off the food delivery robots adjust its speed as needed in order to make a seamless delivery. Subsequently, robots learn from each delivery and “teach” other robots, thus becoming “smarter” and  increasing delivery efficiency, according to KTLA. 

UCLA is just a microcosm of what is yet to come as the demand for autonomous delivery robots rises during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Starship Technologies have had delivery robots for years now, they’ve expanded significantly since the onset of the pandemic.

“These bots have already completed 100,000 autonomous deliveries and traveled more than 500,000 miles,” according to Forbes.

Autonomous delivery robots are potentially going to be the future of deliveries everywhere and not just a technological innovation for college campuses.

“Many companies already create robots that serve enclosed premises such as corporate campuses, hospitals, and universities and might soon be seen on city streets,” according to Forbes.

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