Colombia-based Rappi, backed by Japan’s Softbank, has started trialling robot food deliveries amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis.

The move comes at a time when the restaurant and food delivery industry are struggling to combat the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.

Rappi started piloting the service in the Colombian city of Medellin for orders that are paid online.

The box-shaped delivery robots are equipped with four wheels and can carry deliveries of up to 35cm².

The automated vehicles are jointly operated by Rappi and US-based company KiwiBot.

Overall, Rappi has deployed 15 robot delivery vehicles, which carry out 120 deliveries every day.

In a statement, the delivery start-up said that each of the vehicles is disinfected after every delivery to reduce contagion risks.

Rappi’s Colombia country manager Matias Laks said: “We believe that by partnering with technology we will be able to continue meeting our aim of safely making people’s lives easier, especially in situations like the one we find ourselves in.”

The company plans to continue the trials until July and it will then assess the feasibility of robot food delivery roll-out in other cities.

Earlier this month, Brazil’s iFood signed a deal to merge its operations with to expand its operations in Columbia.

The combined entity is expected to rival Rappi, which is one of the largest delivery start-ups in South America.

On 20 April, Colombia has reported more than 3,790 Covid-19 cases.