Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has — literally — rolled out a wandering droid to help deliver food to travelers in a way that encourages contactless ordering during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The rolling droid, called Gita (pronounced JEE-tah), is part of a pilot program at Terminal 1. Customers may order food from MSP vendors using their phones or laptops, and their order is supposed to be delivered by rolling droid within 15 to 30 minutes.
The droid rolls up and opens its cargo doors so customers can grab their order, said Eric Johnson, director of commercial management and airline affairs for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which operates MSP.
"It's fun and whimsical, but there is also a purpose behind the technology for customers to feel more confident in avoiding queue lines and having their order delivered," said Johnson, in a news release Thursday.
The droid uses "visual sensing technology" to follow an AtYourGate delivery staff person to customers wherever they may be waiting in the main terminal. The droid can carry up to 40 pounds of food in its cargo bin.
"We see Gita as the first step toward introducing robotics as an innovative and safe new option for passengers who shop and dine while at MSP," said AtYourGate co-founder Chris Hartman, in a statement.
MSP ASAP was launched in November to promote contactless ordering in the wake of the pandemic, as part of a partnership with AtYourGate and Grab.
Customers may order food to be delivered from 16 venues at the airport as well as North Loop Market, which offers packaged food, drinks, electronics and travel accessories.
The same program also allows customers to order items for pickup, in an effort to limit time in lines and enhance social distancing.
MSP is the fourth airport nationwide to launch the AtYourGate delivery droid, which is manufactured by Piaggio Fast Forward.
Janet Moore • 612-673-7752