The 10 Coolest Robotics Startups Of 2021

Makers of robots for 3-D mapping, construction, e-commerce fulfillment and delivery, many of which is available on an as-a-service basis, give a glimpse of what the future holds in store for the fast-growing robotics market.

Rise Of The Machine

The robotics industry is one of revolution, as startups develop new autonomous robots to increase the efficiency of human workers or perhaps free them for tasks that are less dangerous or that add value to a business. Driven by advances in artificial intelligence and other technologies, as well as worker shortages in numerous industries, startups have launched robots for construction work, machine operating, landscaping and even pizza-making. Meanwhile, a number of robotics startups also continue to disrupt the warehousing market, including with AI-powered robots that are capable of performing labor-intensive tasks such as piece-picking or 3-D scanning and mapping.

Interestingly enough, many if not most of the technologies being developed by robotics startups are available on an as-a-service basis, with the manufacturers or their representatives charging for the latest robots based on time used or for specific tasks.

CRN offers a list of 10 of the coolest robotics startups this year, which features drones, delivery robots, UV-C disinfectant robots, robots for construction and more.

Judging by the growth and momentum at a number of leading robotics startups, it shouldn’t be long before you can expect to see autonomous robots coming to places they’ve never gone previously.

For more of the biggest startups, products and news stories of 2021, click here.

City Robotics

CEO: Deepjyoti Nath

City Robotics is developing technology to help with tasks that may be dangerous for human workers. The Warsaw, Poland-based company’s first offering is the Robo-UV, which is a robot with a large vertical UV-C light that quickly and efficiently disinfects a work area including hospitals, clinics and industrial areas. The company said the completely autonomous robot can remove 99.9 percent of pathogens while disinfecting a room in about 10 minutes. A smartphone app starts the operation and notifies the user when disinfection is finished. The robot detects when humans are present to turn off the UV-C light. City Robotics has raised about 490,000 Euros, or over $550 million, in funding.

Dusty Robotics

Co-founder, CEO: Tessa Lau

Dusty Robotics develops construction robotics systems, starting with a construction layout robot. Called the “FieldPrinter,” the robot can work autonomously to print floor plans onto the floors at construction sites at an accuracy of up to 1/16 of an inch at speeds of up to 10 times that of typical construction crews, according to the company. The FieldPrinter has been used at several building projects so far—including in Los Angeles, in Austin, Texas, and in Leesburg, Va.—and Dusty Robotics said it’s now seeking a wider deployment for the robot. Its robots are available either as a service or for lease and include training. In June, the Mountain View, Calif.-based startup announced $16.5 million Series A funding round to support its expansion, led by Canaan Partners.

FLX Solutions

Founder, CEO: Matt Bilsky

FLX Solutions is the developer of the FLX Bot, a small, customizable snake-like robot. The FLX Bot has a modular body that is 1 inch in diameter but carries on-board cameras and sensors to map and autonomously navigate, as well as a flexible end that can connect to a wide range of tools including drills, grippers, sprayers, advanced cameras, vacuum cleaners, soldering irons and more. The cameras, working with the FLX Bot’s software, can do 3-D mapping of the robot’s environment and do learning and optimization of many tasks without an operator. Bethlehem, Pa.-based FLX Solutions has received about $485,000 in funding.

Locus Robotics

CEO: Rick Faulk

Locus Robotics is a maker of autonomous multi-bot picking systems to help automate warehouse operations and enhance fulfillment productivity, and offers a robots-as-a-service model. The Wilmington, Mass.-based company early this year expanded of its work with DHL, which now plans to use up to 2,000 assisted picking robots from Locus in its operations by 2022. Locus Robotics in February raised a $150 million Series E round led by Tiger Global Management and Bond Capital, giving it a total funding of $305 million and a $1 billion valuation. Locus in September acquired Waypoint Robotics.

Nimble Robotics

Founder, CEO: Simon Kalouche

Nimble Robotics offers fleets of autonomous robots that provide assistance with e-commerce fulfillment. Nimble said its robots can perform picking, packing and handling of products using the company’s deep imitation learning technology. The ability to perform piece-picking—where items are picked off a shelf and packed into an order—distinguishes the company’s robots from other warehouse automation technologies, which mostly focus on transporting bins of products and still require human pickers, according to the company. The technology can be retrofitted in existing facilities or brought into newly built operations. Nimble Robotics counts several Fortune 500 retailers among its customers, and in March, the San Francisco-based startup announced a $50 million Series A funding round led by DNS Capital and GSR Ventures.

Rapid Robotics

Co-Founder, CEO: Jordan Kretchmer

Rapid Robotics is the developer of the Rapid Machine Operator, a six-axis robot the company said is preloaded with industrial robotic programming aimed at letting users execute common tasks. The Rapid Machine Operator, which automates machine tasks that can be used to alleviate a shortfall in factory workers, includes the hardware and software to perform machine operating work such as injection molding, pad printing, heat stamping, pick-and-place and so on. The robotic system leverages machine vision and pretrained AI and, because it’s connected to the cloud, the system can add capabilities over time, Rapid Robotics said. San Francisco-based Rapid Robotics this year unveiled a $12 million Series A funding round led by NEA.

RightHand Robotics

Co-Founder, CEO: Yaro Tenzer

RightHand Robotics is the developer of the RightPick system, an autonomous piece-picking offering aimed at businesses looking to increase the efficiency and performance of order fulfillment. The Somerville, Mass.-based company in April unveiled its next-generation item-handling robot system, the RightPick 3 item-handling robot system. The company called the RightPick 3 the first autonomous piece-picking solution designed to be integrator-friendly with a modular and industrialized hardware design and software APIs along with AI software to help the device better understand, plan, execute and learn to improve packing density and reduce damage.


Co-Founder, CEO: Adam Bry

Redwood City, Calif.-based Skydio develops a series of flying drones for personal and enterprise use, along with software to take advantage of the drones. The company’s flagship software, Skydio 3D Scan, can scan a specified area or object, automatically build a map of the area or object, and then build a 3-D image. The company’s latest drone, the Skydio X2, are targeted at customers in defense, public sector and enterprises. The Skydio X2 includes a 4K60 HDR color camera that offers 16X digital zoom and a narrow-angle lens, which is optimized for long-range situational awareness, as well as a FLIR Boson 320x256 LWIR thermal sensor offering 8X digital zoom. The drone leverages Skydio’s AI-driven technologies for autonomous flight and obstacle avoidance. Skydio in March closed a Series D funding round worth $170 million.

Starship Technologies

CEO: Alastair Westgarth

Starship Technologies is a San Francisco-based developer of autonomous wheeled robots that are capable of delivering food, packages and groceries, with the company claiming to have already completed over 2 million autonomous deliveries. The company’s robots can be customized for specific types of deliveries such as food or chemical samples. Starship’s robots drive 99 percent autonomously, with support from a human support center if needed. A series of stereo cameras, time of flight cameras, distance sensors, radar and an alarm system form an “awareness bubble” for safe operation.


Co-Founder, CEO: Keller Rinaudo

South San Francisco, Calif.-based Zipline was founded in 2016 to develop unmanned aircraft for delivery systems. The company, which launched its first products and its service in Africa to overcome poor transportation infrastructure, this year signed as its first U.S.-based customer Walmart, which in November started using the Zipline service for on-demand deliveries of certain health and wellness items. Zipline’s autonomous aircraft are being used for a variety of purposes including delivery of products to keep supply chains going and delivery of emergency supplies and medicine. Unlike most flying drones, which require time to connect with the GPS before launching, the Zipline GPS circuitry is loaded in the battery, keeping it running all the time and letting a drone be on its way in as little as five minutes from when an order is received. The company in June unveiled a new $250 million round of funding.