How to build space robots without raising investment

How to build space robots without raising investment

Welcome to the Bulletin by Remix Robotics, where we share a summary of the week's need-to-know robotics and automation news.

In today's email -

  • All about drones - design guidelines and drone racing
  • Out of the frying pan and into the fire - another kitchen robot goes bust
  • Amazon's not quitting home robotics
  • How to build a space robots without investment
  • Better than The Boring Company
  • Don’t forget to catch last week’s deep dive on the sustainable impacts of robotics and automation


Going cold on kitchen robots - Chowbotics — a manufacturer of robot food kiosks — is shutting down 17 months after being purchased by DoorDash. They follow in the footsteps of Zume (raised $423M to build robot pizza makers and recently made an interesting pivot into sustainable packaging) and Spyce (aqui-hired by Sweetgreen). Karakuri and Miso Robotics are still going strong, but this highlights the challenges of kitchen automation - products are soft, variable, and perishable; while restaurants have razor-thin margins.

Going underground - Switzerland’s Cargo Sous Terrain is ready to commence the autonomous transportation of freight in underground tunnels this August. The proposed $35 billion price tag hasn't scared off the Swiss government or suppliers, who claim the concept has a number of advantages over Musk’s Boring Project.

Get ready to re-shore -  Last year the US saw a 116% increase in the construction of new manufacturing facilities, a huge increase from 2020 (10%). This should come as no surprise, we’ve been banging on about reshoring and American Dynamism a lot recently - here and here.

Amazon doubles down on home robots - Last year Amazon launched Astro, a £1000 home robot “with a lot of potential, but too little utility to really be worth that price tag”. Despite scepticism and poor reviews, the company is determined to crack personal robotics. “This is the beginning of the journey for us,” said Ken Washington, Amazon’s vice president of consumer robotics, “We’re in this for good”.

Bootstrapping space robots -  A great thread on how Lunar Outpost has funded the development of space robots while raising minimal investment. In summary, they built a product for Earth, but one that was fully compatible with the Lunar environment. They’ve now leveraged the profits and reputation to win government contracts for space, including technologies for a future moon base. In this economic environment profitability is the way forward.

More layoffs - Fabric, a micro-fulfilment company with a highly automated logistics process will lay off 40% of its staff and has named a new CEO. Apparently, clients want them to transition from a service model to a platform model. It's not all bad as they have “years of runway” and  Fabric “is in a very good situation” according to their new CEO.

The Big Idea

A Framework for Designing Drones

The University of Melbourne has published a paper defining design guidelines for aerial robots. The paper by Tan et al. serves as a useful resource for drone engineers and also acts as inspiration for how to develop design best practices. The paper is behind a paywall, but we’ll provide a synthesis here.

The guidelines

Table adapted from Tan et al. (2022)

The researchers reviewed 90 cutting-edge drone designs looking for patterns in motivation, features and trade-offs. They identified two consistent priorities -

  • Maximising SWaP (Space, Weight and Power)
  • Increasing autonomy in Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous (VUCA) environments

Jack Pearson