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Portrait of the Starship food delivery robots in front of Ayres Hall during a photoshoot for the announcement of their arrival on campus

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Starship Technologies officially launched a robot food delivery service today on Rocky Top.

A fleet of 40 autonomous on-demand robots will deliver from 16 campus eateries including Einstein Bros. Bagels, Steak ’n Shake, Starbucks, and Subway, among others. Students, faculty, and staff can use the Starship app (iOS and Android) to order food and drinks from select dining partners to be delivered anywhere on campus.

“I’m really excited for the robot service. The convenience of it is a game changer for a big campus like ours,” said Drew Hyler, a senior studying supply chain management from Roanoke, Virginia.

Working in conjunction with Vol Dining, the service functions with the student meal plan so VolCard, Dining Dollars, or Flex Dollars are accepted as payment along with debit and credit cards.

“We’re always looking for new and innovative ways to bring enhanced and on-demand services to our students and campus community,” said Brian Browning, associate vice chancellor for finance and administration. “As our campus population continues to grow, so must our ability to offer a variety of services.

Drew Hyler pretends to get food out of a Starship robot in front of Ayres Hall during a photoshoot for the announcement of their arrival on campusStarship Technologies operates commercially on a daily basis around the world. Its zero-emission robots have made more than 3 million autonomous deliveries and traveled millions of miles, and they make more than 100,000 road crossings every day. The robots use a combination of sophisticated machine learning, artificial intelligence, and sensors to travel on sidewalks and navigate around obstacles. Computer vision-based navigation helps the robots map their environment to the nearest inch. They can cross streets, climb curbs, travel at night, and operate in both rain and snow. A team of humans can monitor their progress remotely and take control at a moment’s notice.

“We think the campus community at UT is going to love having Starship robots on campus,” said Ryan Tuohy, senior vice president of business development and sales at Starship Technologies. “The school has a highly regarded program in supply chain and logistics, and our robots were created to help solve the inefficient last-mile delivery problem. UT students will not only get to interact with the robots on a daily basis, but we’re also looking forward to hiring student workers who will get valuable real-world experience.”

Starship is already providing services to campuses across the country including Arizona State University, George Mason University, the University of Kentucky, and Purdue University.

How it works

To get started, users open the Starship Deliveries app, choose their food or drink items, and drop a pin where they want their delivery to be sent. They can watch on an interactive map as the robot makes its journey to them. Once the robot arrives, they receive an alert and can meet and unlock it through the app. Delivery is usually just a matter of minutes, depending on the 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. Chancellor Plowman and senior Drew Hyler discuss the service. For details, visit the Vol Dining website.

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 more than three million autonomous deliveries around the world. Starship was founded by Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis (Skype chief architect and co-founder), and Alastair Westgarth is the CEO.


Maddie Stephens (865-974-3993,