Dubai trial for takeaway delivery robots planned for this year

A Turkish entrepreneur is aiming to revolutionise how food is delivered

High-tech takeaway delivery robots could soon be used to transport food to customers in Dubai following a successful trial of prototypes in Istanbul.

Tech start-up Delivers AI is looking to expand services into the UAE following more than 500 successful deliveries in central Istanbul.

A test fleet of 10 of the Dh29,380 ($8,000) robots is due to expand to 100 this year and increase to more than 1,000 by the end of 2022.

The company’s founder, Ali Kutay Yarali, hopes to begin the trial use of the robots in Dubai internet City, Dubai Mall and Jumeirah Beach Residences later in 2021 in a bid to reduce traffic and business costs for restaurants.

“The next step is to bring these successful trials in Istanbul to Dubai,” said Mr Yarali, a Turkish venture capitalist who has been living in the UAE for four years.

“By focusing on the last mile of delivery, businesses can reduce their costs as well as their carbon footprint.

“It is faster, cheaper and more hygienic.”

Robots can be deployed within a 1.5-kilometre radius of a central kitchen hub, as each has a maximum range of 3km.

Food delivery companies have been expanding satellite kitchens across Dubai to allow delivery riders to reach more remote communities and are well placed to adopt last-mile delivery alternatives.

Each robot is equipped with sensors to intelligently react to its surroundings and move at about 7km an hour.

On-board cameras, light detection and radar sensors navigate around obstacles, pedestrians and traffic.

While the robots are fully autonomous, they are under constant human monitoring and supervision.

The transporter’s four wheel driving chassis enables it to climb up slopes and corner, while carrying 15kg, or the equivalent of four delivery bags.

Similar technology has already been deployed in the UK, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.

Personal delivery devices (PDDs) have already been authorised for use in 12 US states, with Amazon and FedEx looking to expand the market.

Some states restrict the speed or weight of the delivery pods for use, and all must give way to pedestrians and cyclists.

Demand for contactless delivery options has increased during the pandemic, making autonomous deliveries a growth area, Mr Yarali said.

“We want them to trial these robots in selected areas, with controlled operators in JBR, Dubai Mall, DIFC and Dubai internet City where there are office workers and a captive market already attuned to regular food deliveries,” said Mr Yarali.

“We will have AI and computer vision algorithms supported by an engineer in each area to change batteries and troubleshoot as and when required.

“We have started discussions with the RTA to use similar legislation from the US that would allow these robots to be used here.

“Hopefully that will happen sometime in 2021.”

EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS