Florida has become the fourth state to allow unmanned drones to deliver goods on public sidewalks. Governor Rick Scott on Monday signed a law that states that unmanned drones up to 80 pounds can saunter on at up to 10 miles per hour, but only if a human is able to immediately seize control of them if anything should go awry. Though the law is effective immediately, there are currently no ground delivery drones ready to buzz around Florida just yet. Starship Technologies, the robotics company that helped push for the law to pass, said that it is looking into initiating trials in Florida at some point this year. The company did not disclose the nature of the trials, or where and when they may take place.
Lobbyists with Starship Technologies managed to help pass similar laws in three other states, being Idaho, Wisconsin, and Virginia. The firm is reportedly working across the nation to get politicians to come around and allow ground-based delivery bots to operate. The laws passed so far all feature weight limits that may stymie other companies in the same business as Starship Technologies; while Starship's robot weighs only 45 pounds without any cargo, bots from some other companies surpass the total weight limit without carrying anything. The newly imposed weight limit is for both the bot and the cargo, meaning that filling out the ground-based drone delivery field will require either changes to the existing laws, or other companies to head back to the drawing board and come up with lighter designs.
Starship has been running tests in select markets since January, with the company partnering up with DoorDash in California and Postmates in Washington, D.C. Starship Technologies is, of course, not alone in its ambitions to have robots bring goods to peoples' doors. Both Google and Amazon have made very little effort to hide their interest in the prospect, with Google even looking to have delivery drones in the sky hand off packages to bots waiting on the ground, who would then make the final delivery to the consumer. An update on the U.S. robotics industry may follow later this year.