Campus News

UK Partners With Starship to Bring Robot Food Delivery to Campus

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 24, 2021) Starship Technologies rolled out its robot food delivery service yesterday on the University of Kentucky’s campus. UK’s partnership with Starship makes it one of 18 schools across the nation to use the robots.

A fleet of 30 autonomous, on-demand robots will deliver from seven campus eateries including Starbucks, Subway and Auntie Anne’s. UK’s students and faculty can now use the Starship Food Delivery app (iOS and Android) to order food and drinks from local retailers to be delivered anywhere on campus, within minutes. The service works in conjunction with UK Dining. The units — such as Starbucks and Panda Express — and hours of service can be viewed in the app. Credit cards, the Plus Account and Flex dollars are all accepted by the app.

Starship is already providing services to campuses across the country including Arizona State University, Purdue University, University of California, Los Angeles, George Mason University, Northern Arizona University and Bowling Green State University.

“We’re excited to bring robot delivery service to Kentucky,” said SVP of Business Development and Sales at Starship Technologies Ryan Tuohy. “UK has a significant impact that extends throughout the state and beyond. We can’t wait to meet all the students on campus and introduce this new technology. We’re confident our robots are going to be warmly accepted and that the students will love the convenience of on-demand delivery.” 

To get started, users open the Starship Deliveries app on iOS or Android, choose from a range of their favorite food or drink items, then drop a pin where they want their delivery to be sent. They can then watch as the robot makes its journey to them, via an interactive map. Once the robot arrives, they receive an alert, and can then meet and unlock it through the app. The delivery usually takes just a matter of minutes, depending on the menu items ordered and the distance the robot must travel. Each robot can carry up to 20 pounds — the equivalent of about three shopping bags of goods.

“We have been working with UK Dining on this project for over a year now. It’s great to see the robots delivering across campus. We are pleased to offer such a great service to the students, faculty and staff of UK,” said Scott Henry, interim executive director of the Gatton Student Center.

The robots are sanitized at the end of the day when they return to their storage facility in K-Lair. If a UK Dining employee sees something that has spilled in the robot, they will clean it up before putting the next order inside.

Starship’s zero-emission robots use a combination of sophisticated machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensors to travel on sidewalks and navigate around obstacles. The computer vision-based navigation helps the robots to map their environment to the nearest inch. The robots make more than 80,000 road crossings every day and can also climb curbs, travel at night and operate in both rain and snow.

About Starship Technologies

Starship Technologies is revolutionizing deliveries with autonomous robots. The robots are designed to deliver food, groceries and packages locally in minutes. The delivery robots have traveled millions of miles and completed over 1.6 million autonomous deliveries around the world. They drive autonomously but are monitored by humans who can take control at any time. Starship was founded by Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis (Skype chief architect and co-founder) and Alastair Westgarth is the CEO.

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Starship robots delivering food to students. Photo by Christian Wallace.
photo of student next to Starship robot

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.