Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has — literally — rolled out a wandering droid to help deliver food to travelers to encourage 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 within 30 minutes they might get their order from Gita.
The droid rolls up and opens its cargo doors so customers can grab their food, said Eric Johnson, director of commercial management and airline affairs for the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), 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," Johnson said 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 and comes with a $4.99 delivery service fee per order.
MAC spokesman Jeff Lea said that if there's heavy demand for delivery orders, Gita "may be dispatched on some orders, while others are delivered solely by a person to make sure deliveries are timely — which is a top priority."
If a delivery is far from the food outlet, that could affect whether the droid is deployed as well, Lea said.
"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 during the pandemic, as part of a partnership with AtYourGate and Grab, an airport ordering platform.
Customers may order food delivered from 16 venues at MSP including North Loop Market, which offers food, drinks and travel accessories.
Customers also may order items for pickup in an effort to limit time in lines.
MSP is the fourth airport nationwide to launch the AtYourGate delivery droid, which is manufactured by Piaggio Fast Forward.