A food delivery robot on the campus of UNR.

Alex O’Connor/The Nevada Sagebrush
Food delivery robot on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno. August 31, 2021.

The University of Nevada, Reno unleashed their new on-campus food delivery service, Starship Delivery, on Aug. 23. The new robots come with the hopes of expanding the university’s dining options to include safe and contactless delivery.

This technology comes after Chartwells Higher Ed, Nevada Dining’s on-campus dining partners, partnered with Starship Technologies. With approximately 20 robots already on campus, there are already plans to increase that number due to the high demand from students.

“The robots are to service the dining facilities here on campus and they will take orders to wherever the student is,” said Mahealani Elias, the Operations Site Lead at the university for Starship Technologies. 

To utilize the robots, students download the Starship app, place their order, choose where they want to pick it up and meet the robot at the location.

Four white food delivery robots.

Noah Scott/The Nevada Sagebrush
Food delivery robots on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno. September 1, 2021.

Starship Technologies is a for-profit enterprise, so funding for the app does not come out of students’ tuition. Instead, the robots are funded via the $1.9

9 delivery fees that are paid within the app.

Starship has also announced a recent update that includes a scheduling option, so students can schedule their food to be delivered to them at certain times. 

Students can currently order from Bytes Cafe, Bowl Life, The Habit Burger and Create.

The robots deliver all around campus with delivery times of around 30 minutes. Ponderosa Village, because it is gated, and Canyon Flats, due to distance, will not be included in the delivery locations.

The robots are almost completely autonomous and act as pedestrians—they even cross streets. They are equipped with GPS, radars and other technologies as obstacle detection and to prevent crashes. 

“The robots have a map of campus already, and when they come to a road crossing, it changes to a human operator who will tell the robot it is okay to cross,”  Elias said.

Additionally, the robots are eco-friendly and run on a lithium battery that is charged every night.

“The campus community has been asking for a long time for some kind of delivery service,” said Heidi Rich, the marketing director for Nevada Dining. “It brings a really cool technology component to campus.”

This new technology has not come without some issues. Students have witnessed others riding, harassing and attempting to vandalize the robots. 

“As far as riding it, the robot will ask the person to get off, but if they are noncompliant it will escalate,” Elias said. “There is a suite of cameras inside the robot and it will contact inside personnel if harassment continues.”

Elias continued by stating that all robots are equipped with an alarm for theft prevention, and that those alarms will sound if picked up or damaged.

UNR is now one of around 20 campuses in the United States to be equipped with Starship Technologies.

Emerson Drewes can be reached at sydneypeerman@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter at @NevadaSagebrush.