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Baemin launches outdoor delivery robot in South Korea

A company called Baemin, or Baedal Minjok, whose parent company is the better-known Woowa Brothers, has launched an outdoor delivery robot which is expected to be used for food deliveries. 

The robot is in service at the Gwanggyo Alley Way, a multipurpose housing complex in Gwanggyo, a planned city 25 km south of capital city Seoul.

When orders are placed in restaurants within the plaza via a Baemin app, the robot delivers to the ground floor of customer’s residence.

The delivery cost of the robot making short distance delivery is lower for restaurant owners, says Baemin.

The company says this service, which allows delivery robots to come and go outdoors between restaurants and apartments to deliver food, has become a reality for the first time in South Korea.

It can run for more than 8 hours, and it can deliver at night as well with its headlights. Dilly Drive can carry about 6 lunch boxes or 12 cups of beverages per delivery.

There are 1,100 residents of apartments and studio flats in Gwanggyo Alley Way and customers can place orders using QR codes placed on outdoor tables.

When there’s an order, the “Dilly Drive” robots drive from the station to the restaurant on their own. And once the restaurant staff places the food in Dilly and press “go” button, the robot starts the delivery.

Customers can check the current location of Dilly Drive via a Baemin app and get notifications 100 meters before and upon arrival. Customers can receive food either on the first floor of the building or at the designated outdoor table in the plaza.

The Dilly Drive at Gwanggyo Alley Way has evolved with a newly added remote control function, which the versions at the Konkuk University campus did not have.

With its 6 wheels, Dilly Drive walks in the speed of approximately 5 km per hour, which is the speed of a person walking. Once charged, it can run for more than 8 hours, and with its headlights, it can deliver at night as well. Dilly Drive can carry about 6 lunch boxes or 12 cups of beverages per delivery.

Woowa Brothers says it has prepared various safety measures to “guarantee the safe driving of Dilly Drive”. The company has thoroughly examined the road conditions and travel route of the people in the complex, and set Dilly Drive to go slowly in parts where there usually are a lot of people or children.

At crosswalks with a lot of cars, Dilly Drive comes to a stop, and its safety has been enhanced with the real time control via the video surveillance system installed at the apartment complex.

For the first month of service, Dilly Drive will run from 11am to 3pm during the weekdays, and its hours of operation will gradually be extended.

This is the first time in South Korea, and not very common worldwide, for a delivery robot to receive food from restaurants and deliver outdoors. There is a higher technological barrier for outdoor self-driving robots than for indoor robots.

Outdoor self-driving robots have to detect the subtle movements of not only cars and bicycles but also children and companion animals, and can only be commercialized when they operate stably even on bumpy roads and ever-changing weather conditions.

In November 2019, Woowa Brothers has conducted a month-long pilot test in Konkuk University campus to commercialize Dilly Drive.

At the time, Dilly Drive carried out more than 2,000 deliveries and improved its service quality. And from last June, Woowa Brothers has been working together with SK Telecom to conduct tests to build the control system crucial to outdoor delivery robot service.

The outdoor delivery robot service via Dilly Drive is going to be a new source of income for restaurant and café owners. Until now, customers were reluctant to make close-range deliveries due to delivery fees.

Since robots carry out close-range deliveries at half the existing delivery fee, owners can now expect new sales revenue.

Woowa Brothers plans to keep enhancing the technological standard of outdoor delivery robot. For now, Dilly Drive can self drive from the restaurant to the first floor of an apartment, but it will be able to deliver right to the door in the first half of 2021.

Joseph Kim, head of robot business development at Woowa Brothers, says: “Outdoor delivery robot service includes a lot more obstacles that interrupt the robot’s drive, such as the road surface, obstacles, the weather, unexpected events, and so on.

“It can be commercialized when sophisticated technology and service know-hows come together.

“Woowa Brothers will continue the development of delivery robot service for advanced delivery ecosystem.”

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