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2020-04-24

In a locked-down British city, shopping robots come their own

Image:-delivery robot

The robots, which rise roughly to the knee height of an adult and look like smooth white plastic boxes mounted on six black wheels, are a familiar sight in the city, where they have been supplying groceries for more than two years.

However, since the government on 23 March imposed stringent social distancing measures, the devices were busier than ever, delivered free of charge to the National Health Service (NHS), and met increased public demand.

"We offer all NHS workers in the community free delivery right now. In this very, very stressful time, we want to make life a little easier for these people," said Henry Harris-Burland from Starship, a robotic company.

"Many of them do... 80-hour weeks, they have no time for the local grocery store, so they use our robots to shop," he said. "We are honored to be part of this solution."

The robots look like an antenna with a small red flag that makes it easier to see them as they round. They are large enough to hold several shopping bags and bottles.

In the past three weeks, Starship has doubled its fleet of delivery robots in Milton Keynes to 70. Harris-Burland said 100,000 autonomous deliveries were completed in the city.

"Many of the residents reached us online to ask us to deliver to their neighborhood," he said.

"We are doing everything we can to expand this service as quickly as possible, in particular at this very important time.

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