The lockdown cited by Covid-19 and its impact on e-commerce led the federal government to approve drone-based supplies in India in June. Although nothing has been heard on this front since then, the online marketplace Snapdeal has now announced that it has been using robots for last mile delivery.
Snapdeal has partnered with autonomous mobility startup Ottonomy IO to complete last mile delivery for orders placed at select locations in the NCR region of Delhi. The packages that were delivered to the door were also disinfected on the way.
The drone experiment
In early June, India̵
DDCA viewed this as an experimental project to understand the requirements for flying drones out of line of sight before giving out actual regulatory guidelines in this regard. The test plan was for two months and so far there has been no update on that front.
In 2019, Zomato carried out a test run for the delivery of drones, in which the drones delivered a payload of around 5 kg and covered a distance of 5 kilometers in just 10 minutes.
How different the robots are
The robots developed by Ottonomy IO in the form of a small delivery truck can use AI algorithms to move on sidewalks and local streets and navigate through crowded areas. The robots also use machine learning that they contrast data from 3D lidar and cameras to capture the place where they are moving.
In a statement, Snapdeal said the robot had a card and was stationed at the entrance to large apartment buildings where the deliverer scanned a QR code and placed the package in the robotic vehicle. Since there are several orders, the QR code used by the end customer unlocks the parcel holding area in the vehicle.
The delivery robots also have ultraviolet lighting that disinfects the parcel as it navigates to the delivery location. The delivery person can remotely monitor and control the robots in case human intervention is required to navigate within a closed community.
In a statement, Ottonomy IO co-founder Ritukar Vijay described contactless delivery as the need of the hour and said automating last mile delivery addresses security concerns for both shoppers and deliverers. The company is now keen to expand the project to other cities and ultimately to spread it globally.
Snapdeal believes delivery robots would play a huge role in the proliferation of online retail in India, particularly in large townships, institutional campuses, and apartment blocks.