Drone Delivery Coming Soon?
By Kevin Stockslager, Vice President, Wray Executive Search
Back in 2016, I wrote about the advances in technology leading to exciting projects and pilots with regards to restaurant food delivery. At the time, I wrote that many brands have been testing and implementing services to make the ordering, payment, and food pickup process as easy as possible for the consumer. Companies were implementing online and text ordering, using in-store kiosks, and investigating additional strategies to boost off-premise sales. Additionally, two intriguing projects at the time were piloting the use of drones and robots to deliver food to consumers. Chipotle was working with Google’s Project Wing to test drone delivery of burritos at Virginia Tech University and Starship Technologies was testing robot food delivery capabilities in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. I have not seen much reported with regards to the Chipotle project, but Starship recently announced the large-scale use of the robotic delivery systems across the US, with plans to have over 1,000 vehicles in operation by the end of 2018.
In addition to those two smaller scale projects, a large-scale pilot drone testing trial was announced in May. The Federal Aviation Administration selected several private sector firms to begin a 2-year period of testing the unmanned delivery of products to learn more about the safe use of drones in the commercial segment. One company that was selected, Flytrex, focuses on consumer goods and food delivery via drone and is already operational in Iceland. The company is working with several restaurant companies and will begin testing this fall in North Carolina before expanding their area of operations. The results of this FAA testing program will likely have several implications for the future of drone delivery with regards to food, consumer goods, and other products. Hopefully, updates on the testing program will be readily available along the way.
At the time of my original article in 2016, I surmised that we were likely years away from the regular use of drones or robotic delivery systems. While that might still be the case, these pilot programs that are growing in scale seem to be an indication that technology and restaurant companies are committed to investigating the feasibility of using technology to enhance food delivery services. The results of this larger-scale, two-year testing between the FAA, private-sector firms, and government entities will provide some indication of whether advanced delivery methods will be available sooner rather than later.
Kevin Stockslager | Vice President
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