Merchant Innovation

Dispatch Rolls Out Ground-Based Delivery Drones

Centuries ago, revolutionary patriots in Boston had to worry about the British coming by land or by sea. Today, shoppers don't know if their deliveries will be shipped by a human, a drone or even an autonomous robot.

Dispatch, a new startup founded by students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania, is banking on the latter, TechCrunch reported. In a bid to provide another solution for the issue of last-mile deliveries in an on-demand consumer-centric world, Dispatch uses three-wheeled carriers about the size of an average wheelchair to ferry products and groceries straight to customers' homes.

The device at the center of Dispatch's strategies is known as "Carry" and it can transport up to 100 pounds split across four separate compartments. At about 4-feet tall and a foot-and-a-half wide, Carry is small enough to mix in with regular pedestrian and bicycle traffic, Dispatch told TechCrunch. Ideally, this will allow delivery drivers to supplement their normal operations. Instead of stopping at each individual house, drivers could simply roll up to a neighborhood and release a fleet of Carrys to cover the last mile.

Dispatch is confident that the Carry machines are small and slow enough not to cause serious damage regardless of the circumstances.

And while Dispatch is not alone in its mission and vision, it also may eventually end up in the crosshairs of the concerned and skeptical critics who are weary of similar innovations. Donald Broughton, senior transportation analyst at Avondale Partners, told CNBC that carriers are keeping a close watch on every possible positive and negative outcome of experimental delivery solutions.

"If this new technology is really feasible, FedEx and UPS will both be at the forefront of using it and developing it," Broughton said. "God forbid a drone or a robot hits a toddler, or kills a cat or a dog. The liability is just too high."

What remains to be seen is if consumers' rampant desire for on-demand delivery pushes these robots on the market before they're ready.

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