Robohub.org
 

Is drone delivery really a robot startup?

by
14 October 2013



share this:

Australian startup Zookal is making news today with their claims to be the world’s first drone delivery company.  It’s an exciting headline and I wish them well. But while you can quibble over who is really the first commercial drone delivery company, I think it’s more interesting that we’re hitting an inflection point where you have to ask, “is a company that uses robots a robot company”? Zookal is a textbook and student services startup. They use drones for delivery and marketing. They are not a drone or robot company. And that’s good!

Zookal is a textbook rental startup that also provides a digital note platform and internships for international students. Zookal are using drones developed by the University of Sydney engineering students and technically Flirtey is the actual drone startup. Or possibly Vimbra who are managing the logistics partnerships, ie between Zookal and Flirtey. However they all have cofounder Ahmed Haider in common.

Haider hopes to close the gap between the rapid developments in ecommerce and logistics which has remained largely unchanged. Textbooks are a great test bed for drone logistics as they are robust, reasonably expensive and in demand, unlike tacos, which may be in demand but are fragile and offer little margin for a startup.

“Textbooks are an excellent way to test the market as they allow for varying weights,” he says. “With the concentration of students in universities in Australia, we will have proof of concept that shows if you can deliver a textbook, then things such as urgent medical deliveries, clothes, shoes, fast food and other e-commerce will be much more viable.”

Drones are the first robots to become an off the shelf technology that is wide open for diverse uses, with drone delivery and aerial photography leading the way as consumer and small business verticals. What next? Drones are the gateway for consumer robotics where the robot is a tool that anyone can use. Increasingly, there will be more and more separation between companies that simply use robots and companies that make or deploy or augment robots. This inflexion point has occurred many times in various industries, most notably the automotive industry in the 70s and 80s.

While Australia is friendlier towards commercial UAV operation than the US, this is still a fledgeling industry with many standards and regulations still to be worked out. Flirtey are working in partnership with The Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering, a non-profit research institute, to develop a set of guidelines for the use of commercial drones.

“We hope to use this guide as a way to work through safety, privacy and community concerns locally which will hopefully set a benchmark for the rest of the world as to how to interact with this new technology,” says Haider. “I think this is going to be absolutely huge in terms of logistics,” he says.

So let’s keep Zookal with Flirtey on the list of robot startups for a while longer because they are creating interest and expanding awareness of potential business models which will increase the funding opportunities for more robot startups.

 



tags:


Andra Keay is the Managing Director of Silicon Valley Robotics, founder of Women in Robotics and is a mentor, investor and advisor to startups, accelerators and think tanks, with a strong interest in commercializing socially positive robotics and AI.
Andra Keay is the Managing Director of Silicon Valley Robotics, founder of Women in Robotics and is a mentor, investor and advisor to startups, accelerators and think tanks, with a strong interest in commercializing socially positive robotics and AI.





Related posts :



Sea creatures inspire marine robots which can operate in extra-terrestrial oceans

Scientists at the University of Bristol have drawn on the design and life of a mysterious zooplankton to develop underwater robots.
02 February 2023, by

Our future could be full of undying, self-repairing robots – here’s how

Could it be that future AI systems will need robotic “bodies” to interact with the world? If so, will nightmarish ideas like the self-repairing, shape-shifting T-1000 robot from the Terminator 2 movie come to fruition? And could a robot be created that could “live” forever?
01 February 2023, by

Sensing with purpose

Fadel Adib uses wireless technologies to sense the world in new ways, taking aim at sweeping problems such as food insecurity, climate change, and access to health care.
29 January 2023, by

Robot Talk Episode 34 – Interview with Sabine Hauert

In this week's episode of the Robot Talk podcast, host Claire Asher chatted to Dr Sabine Hauert from the University of Bristol all about swarm robotics, nanorobots, and environmental monitoring.
28 January 2023, by

Special drone collects environmental DNA from trees

Researchers at ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal research institute WSL have developed a flying device that can land on tree branches to take samples. This opens up a new dimension for scientists previously reserved for biodiversity researchers.
27 January 2023, by

The robots of CES 2023

Robots were on the main expo floor at CES this year, and these weren’t just cool robots for marketing purposes. I’ve been tracking robots at CES for more than 10 years, watching the transition from robot toys to real robots.
25 January 2023, by





©2021 - ROBOTS Association


 












©2021 - ROBOTS Association