Milieu and Waldo Delivery Robots Working together for a Safer Future

The problem we face...

The big Issue of deliveries in a pandemic

  • COVID-19 has lead to an increase in delivery volume of approximately 700% [1]
  • Approximately 55% of Americans live in the suburbs [2]
  • Reduction in direct human contact helps prevent the spread of diseases such as COVID-19 [3]
  • Global logistics market size post COVID-19 is projected to grow from USD 2,734 billion in 2020 to USD 3,215 billion by 2021 [4]

Our Mission

We strive to design an autonomous system that safely delivers packages, reduces human-to-human contact to protect customers, and strengthens current supply chain logistics for last-mile delivery in suburban communities.

The suburban sprawl use environment.

Why do we need Milieu and Waldo?

Milieu and Waldo focus on servicing the suburban areas that reside just outside of current services range. This sweet spot of the suburban community is where 55% of the population in the United States resides and is the critical backbone of the American standard of living. Our design allows us to target this undeserved portion of the market, while maintaining federal safety standards during times of pandemics. This design allows for the most optimal use of both vehicles' strengths while maintaining high efficiency during longer fulfillment trips.

"The primary concern faced by the road transport segment is driver shortage and ensuring the health safety of the available drivers" - PR Newswire

Similar Existing Solutions

Currently, the majority of the solutions to autonomous last-mile delivery focus on densely populated urban centers. This tends to dictate that designs are smaller and primarily focus on delivering food or groceries in a small area around its home location.

The Nuro R-2

  • Used in Scottsdale, Arizona and Houston, Texas
  • Services Kroger and Domino's
  • On-Road delivery solution with a 1 mile radius [5]

Postmates Serve

  • Used in Los Angeles and San Francisco, California
  • Services Postmates customers
  • Off-Road delivery solution with a 15 mile radius [6]


  • Used in Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Services pharmacies, grocery stores, and restaurants
  • On-Road delivery solution with a 2.5 mile radius [7]


  • Used in Washington DC; Irvine, California; and Milton Keynes in the UK
  • Services small businesses, grocery stores, and restaurants
  • Off-Road delivery solution with a 4 mile radius [8]

TeleRetail - ThyssenKrupp

  • Presented at the Washington Auto Show
  • Off-Road delivery solution with a 10-mile radius [9]


  • Located near Beijing, China
  • Fleet of seven different sized Drones
  • Has a delivery radius between 4 and 62 miles [10]

What makes Milieu and Waldo unique?

  • The Multi-Agent System relies on the ability for the two vehicles, Milieu and Waldo, to collaborate in real-time to ensure proper delivery is achieved with great accuracy.
  • Unlike many of the solutions on the market, our system puts an emphasis on servicing suburban areas by delivering a large volume of packages instead of single deliveries of food or groceries.

Design Concept

System Overview

Milieu and Waldo comprise a system of two self-navigating robots designed to work together to deliver packages to suburban neighborhoods. Each robot within the system serves a distinct role while working in operation.

Milieu Design

Milieu is our autonomous ground vehicle, which is broken up into 2 parts. The chassis contains the drive-train, sensors, and the package conveyor system. The cargo area features a magazine-style shelving system that can be restocked while out on deliveries.

Current Progress

The current state of the Milieu development is limited to controlled navigation, with efforts being made to integrate sensor data with navigation software to allow for fully autonomous driving strengthened by wireless communication networks between the vehicles.

Future Research

In the future, we will implement novel methods of communicating between machines to improve their ability to navigate and map their environments, as well as increasing the size and carrying capacity of our machine.

Milieu Demonstration

Waldo Design

Waldo is deployed with Milieu and can recharge itself between stops on Milieu. When a package needs to be delivered, the conveyor system loads the package onto a launchpad , where Waldo grabs the package and makes the final leg of the delivery process to the designated delivery site.

Current Progress

We are currently testing several different autonomous drone navigation methods including: path-finding algorithms, autonomous takeoff and landing, and real-time dynamic obstacle avoidance.

In our pursuit of customer satisfaction, the Waldo has the capability of locating and landing on a designated Landing Zone Marker that the customer has established for the Waldo to use. As an alternative to using the Landing Zone Marker, we are also testing and developing an interface in which customers can interact with the drone to ensure satisfactory deliveries. The scope in which the interface encompasses includes: the ability to identify customers, interact with gesture pose estimation, hand motion controls, and give feedback to the customer.

Future Research

In the future we plan on implementing a novel path planning algorithm developed by our team based off of the popular A* search algorithm.

Waldo Demonstration

Customer Profile

Who is our Customer?

  • Our design is geared towards large scale logistics companies that are looking for a solution to enhance their last mile capabilities in suburban areas. Companies such as Amazon, UPS, and FedEx come to mind when envisioning the Milieu and Waldo system's target customers.
  • Large logistic companies are best equipped to benefit from autonomous last mile delivery vehicles because they have fulfillment centers strategically located near large populations.

What does our Customer need?

  • Safety and liability concerns require the system to be safe and robust to failure during transit and delivery of goods.
  • Last-mile logistics dominates costs for carriers. Milieu and Waldo present a method of improving efficiency for that expensive last mile.
Relationship between delivery costs per package and population density according to past demand [11]
Looking to the Future


Our current testing capabilities are limited to small prototype robots that showcase the individual functions of a final product. In order to create a more realized product, we would need the following.

Skill-sets Needed for Further Product Development

While our team is full of hardworking individuals with a diverse knowledge base, we are aware of some shortcomings in our experiences. Individuals with skills similar to those listed below would greatly improve our ability to create a finished product.

  • Expertise in Laws related to Tort, Commerce, Transportation, and Logistics
  • Knowledge in Market Industries, Economic Analysis, and Advertisements
  • Talent for Visual Design and Communication, for documentation and marketability

Additional Resources and Funding

  • We would require funding to scale-up our prototype vehicles and purchase the necessary hardware to begin development of a fully functional system.
  • We look towards companies such as Amazon, NVIDIA, Google, and other pioneers in autonomous systems for a potential sponsorship.

Proposed Development and Future Research

  • We hope to expand our research of multi-vehicle collaboration to develop communications between all our robots to improve mapping and localization capabilities.
  • We plan to explore what other applications we can develop using AI to help improve the efficiency and customer satisfaction of our product, as well as expand our ability to ensure the safety of those working in the logistics industry.

Our Team

Dr. Yiqiang Han - Department of Mechanical Engineering - Faculty Advisor

Wenjian Hao - Graduate Student Department of Mechanical Engineering - Advisor

Rongyao Wang - Graduate Student Department of Mechanical Engineering - Advisor

Alexander Krolicki - Senior Mechanical Engineering Major - Team Lead

Brandon Wingard - Junior Computer Science Major - Autonomous Drone

Duncan McCain - Senior Computer Engineering Major - Autonomous Drone

Connor Willoughby - Junior Computer Science Major - Autonomous Tank

Jonathan Daniel - Sophomore Computer Science Major - Autonomous Tank

From Top Left: Dr. Yiqiang Han, Alex Krolicki, Brandon Wingard, Duncan McCain, Jonathan Daniel, Connor Willoughby,

Image Links







Works Cited

[1] Lockridge, Deborah. "COVID-19 Strains Last-Mile Delivery Logistics.", April 8, 2020, https://www.truckinginfo.com/355315/covid-19-strains-last-mile-delivery-logistics.

[2] Kim Parker, et al. What Unites and Divides Urban, Suburban and Rural Communities. Pew Research Center, 2018.

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "How to Protect Yourself & Others.", April 24, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html.

[4] "COVID-19 Impact on Logistics & Supply Chain Industry Market by Industry Verticals, Mode of Transport, Region - Global Forecast to 2021." M2 Presswire, May 8, 2020, https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/covid-19-impact-on-logistics-supply-chain-industry-market-244593137.html.

[5] Allianz Partners Business Insights. "Grocery Chain Kroger Partners with Nuro to use Autonomous Delivery Robots.", January 17, 2019, https://allianzpartners-bi.com/news/grocery-chain-kroger-partners-with-nuro-to-use-autonomous-delivery-robots-265d-333d4.html.

[6] Postmates. "Meet Serve, the Newest Member of the Postmates Fleet.", December 13, 2018, https://blog.postmates.com/meet-serve-the-newest-member-of-the-postmates-fleet-e3884825b94c.

[7] Chang, Brittany. "The Maker of this Autonomous Robot Says it has seen a Surge in Orders for Contactless Delivery since the Start of the Coronavirus Pandemic.", June 13, 2020, https://www.businessinsider.com/refraction-ais-robot-delivering-program-surge-orders-coronavirus-pandemic-2020-6.

[8] Starship Technologies. "A New Kind of Business - Starship.", https://www.starship.xyz/business/.

[9] Jennings, Dylan, and Miguel Figliozzi. "Study of Sidewalk Autonomous Delivery Robots and their Potential Impacts on Freight Efficiency and Travel." Transportation Research Record, vol. 2673, no. 6, 2019, pp. 317-326. CrossRef, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0361198119849398, doi:10.1177/0361198119849398.

[10] "JD.Com's Drone Delivery Program Takes Flight in Rural China.", November 11, 2016, https://corporate.jd.com/whatIsNewDetail?contentCode=6IhXLeeSAFLjLLlyuZatDA.

[11] Rodrigue, Jean-Paul, and Sonke Behrends. MetroFrieght, 2018, pp. 7–8, The Dualism of Urban Freight Distribution: City vs. Suburban Logistics.

Created By
Connor Willoughby


Created with an image by Johannes Plenio - "untitled image", Nicholas Willoughby "untitled image"