2023 will be the year of drone deliveries. Several startups have been working hard to test, learn and hone their ability to deploy drone networks for efficient delivery.
Instant gratification of last-minute items, prescription drugs, and fast food available in record time are some of the highlights expected to drive initial demand.
Takeout has grown in popularity, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many different apps to choose from such as Uber Eats, DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, Seamless, and Caviar that will get your meals and snacks delivered right to your door, many people (myself included) choose for convenience.
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However, as more and more companies experiment with drone delivery as a way to deliver instant deliveries to customers, the way we deliver food may change. Each company is experimenting with drone delivery in different ways. A new concept that has become a reality is the latest delivery drone from Zipline, called the Platform 2. Zipline has improved the delivery concept and is now working on a turnkey solution, one of the smartest ways to deal with the expected surge in demand.
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The Platform 2 looks like it should have a cute name, and it’s designed as a landing vehicle that descends from a main hovering drone 300 feet above. The onboard propeller can stabilize the descent in all kinds of bad weather. I watched a demo of Platform 2 almost silently dropping an item on a table in the backyard. Other delivery drones are not so quiet.
Noise is a huge challenge, along with the chaos of drone traffic that will be buzzing over our homes for the next year and beyond. While Zipline has invented a smart and quiet way to deliver, not many other companies can deliver as smoothly as they do.
Local laws range from extremely restrictive to anything, and the FAA has taken steps to regulate how and when drones can be flown. Much remains to be resolved and agreed upon, including how to handle air traffic at altitudes up to 400 feet. The onus is on the community to work with the drone companies to quickly find standards before drones fly wild in the air, which is more of a nuisance than a huge benefit.
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Which companies are using drones to deliver food?
In the past few months, a number of businesses have begun testing drone delivery services. Most recently, Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Walmart partnered with Flytrex, an Israeli automated drone delivery startup, to test its drone delivery system through in-app purchases.
At launch, the company is only doing deliveries at select locations throughout North Carolina. One woman even posted a viral video showing Starbucks orders being delivered by drone.you can watch her video Instagram page.
Other companies across the country are using similar systems. El Pollo Loco is testing its Air Loco drone delivery system in California.
Flirtey, a drone delivery company, has partnered with several restaurants, including Pizza Hut and Domino’s.
Wing, a drone company owned by Google parent company Alphabet, also works with restaurants, including Chick-Fil-A. Uber Eats has been testing drone deliveries at various locations since 2019.
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What does this mean for the future of food delivery workers?
That doesn’t bode well for the couriers, considering more and more companies seem to be chasing the drone trend. It’s an easy way for companies to save even more money, as they won’t have to pay someone to deliver their products for them.
More and more companies are even opting for AI technology within their restaurants, especially fast food chains. With self-service machine ordering, delivery apps and now delivery drones, it’s almost as if the chains are trying to get rid of human workers.
Are drone deliveries a better option?
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I can think of one benefit of drone delivery. It could potentially cut lead times in half. It can take a long time for your Uber Eats order to be delivered to your door because delivery people often have to contend with traffic, especially during meal times. Drone deliveries will greatly help with this problem.
However, this certainly has a lot of downsides. In addition to putting people out of work, drones will almost certainly make every neighborhood noisier. If a bunch of them are flying around at the same time, that can turn a convenience into an annoyance very quickly. There is also always the possibility of drones malfunctioning and crashing, which can be a serious safety hazard.
I think that’s why many of these businesses are taking the time to test these delivery drones before implementing them permanently, so we’ll have to see where it goes.
Would you prefer drones to deliver your food to people? Let us know what you think.
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