Source: Starship Technologies

Robotic delivery company Starship Technologies – whose fleet of autonomous bots deliver Co-op groceries to customers in several UK towns – has installed wireless charging stations for its bots in Cambourne in Cambridgeshire, a European first.

The charging stations mean the robots – which can run for 18 hours fully charged – drive themselves to a central charging point to recharge their batteries and are ready for operations the following morning. Previously they were taken by van to a different location and plugged in overnight, before being dropped off by van the next day to commence operations again.

Starship first introduced wireless charging stations at the George Mason University campus in the US around six months ago. Its introduction in Cambourne – done in collaboration with Cambourne Town Council – marks the first European installation and “will strengthen Starship’s commitment to make its delivery offering even more sustainable” the company said.

Wireless charging – given the robots will no longer need to be couriered by van between service areas – will help the company further reduce emissions, it said.

“Wireless charging is more energy-efficient, allowing the robots to charge up overnight, while they’re sleeping, on-site. In this way, wireless charging will also lower the cost of providing autonomous delivery services in the long term,” a spokeswoman added.

Starship brought its autonomous delivery service to Cambourne in May 2022, offering grocery deliveries from the Co-op store on Mosquito Road in Upper Cambourne.

“People in Cambourne have told us how much they love Starship’s robot delivery service, and now we’re making it even more environmentally-friendly by rolling out the first-ever autonomous wireless charging stations in Europe,” said Danny Pass, director of European field operations at Starship Technologies. “Cambourne is leading the way. When they’re low on energy, the little guys will take themselves to charge, then get back to work when they’re re-energised.”

Last month the company raised $90m to “take on the world”. The funding round, co-led by venture capital firms Plural and Iconical, will enable the company to “further develop its AI, tech and wireless charging infrastructure”, expand into new regions globally and refine its ‘Delivery as a Service (DaaS)’ product, which sees Starship robots integrate into the delivery infrastructure of retailer partners. The cash injection brought the total raised by Starship to $230m since its creation in 2014.

Starship’s six-wheeled autonomous robots launched in the UK in 2018, delivering groceries in as little as 15 minutes within a two-mile radius of a Milton Keynes Co-op branch. The service has since expanded to Northampton, Bedford, Cambourne, Cambridge, Leeds and Greater Manchester.

“We are facing a climate and environmental crisis, and Co-op is committed to cutting carbon emissions from its own operations and supply chain,” said Chris Conway, Co-op e-commerce director. “We know the autonomous, quick and convenient delivery of groceries can reduce the number of short car journeys locally, and are pleased to see the introduction of wireless charging designed to further improve the energy efficiency of robot deliveries.”