Starship Robots Deliver to On-Campus Students, Residents of Fairfax

Delivery services remain available to aid in mitigating contact, protect public health


In March, Starship stepped up to meet increasing demands in response to COVID-19, as on-campus students and residents of the City of Fairfax have been relying on Starship Technologies to receive groceries and food.  

On April 12, Starship tweeted, “In these exceptional times, tech has stepped up to help keep the world connected and everyone safe. Staying home has changed daily life, separated us from our loved ones & we’re doing it to protect others. Thanks for taking our robots under your wings, we’re in this together.”

Many students have reported seeing the Starship robots in Fairfax. 

These units are mapping the streets of the City of Fairfax in order to prepare for delivery services, according to Mark Arnold, a general manager at Mason Sodexo. Starting Friday, April 17, Starship plans to move into the surrounding neighborhoods of Fairfax.

“We are preparing for a … pilot that would help city businesses connect more directly with city residents during COVID-19,” the Fairfax City Economic Development Authority said.

Starship deliveries in Fairfax would provide residents with options of The Wine House, Havabite Eatery, UBAR, High Side and essential groceries.

“I am super excited for the Starship Robots to start offering its service in the city of Fairfax,” said John Gannon, a resident of Country Hills in Fairfax. “Another no-contact delivery option for food and essential goods is great for those who can’t drive anywhere or are stuck at home.”

While some have had a positive response to robots operating more in response to COVID-19, others disagree.

“I think they [Starship] should call it quits because if this actually works, they would be taking away jobs from people in an already jobless economy,” Mason student Hannah Ferrante said. 

Fairfax resident and Mason student Kady Busekrus is not happy about the new development. 

“I am not for the expansion of robots,” Busekrus said. “I think they’re a nuisance, a safety hazard for cars, and they might put people who do Uber Eats and Door Dash out of jobs.”

Remaining on-campus students can also use Starship to reduce contact amidst the pandemic. 

Chris Neider, a member of Starship Technologies business development team, said, “Some kids just can’t go home. So, we are still running deliveries on George Mason’s campus today.”

The robots are delivering Starbucks, One Stop Patriot Shop and Pilot House at various times of the day, and are available for operation from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to Arnold.

In order to keep both food workers and students safe, Sodexo has implemented a variety of safety precautions into the Starship robot’s delivery process, Arnold said. Before each order is placed for delivery, the robot’s exterior rim, interior rim, lid and seals are sanitized. 

“At the end of operation, each day, thermal inserts are removed and sanitized, as well as inside and outside of robots,” Arnold wrote in an email to Fourth Estate. The robot units also contain an hourly timer to change their sanitizing solution.