How drones are revolutionizing delivery by taking to the skies

The year 2023 is turning out to be the year of drone delivery.  Several startups have been hard at work testing, learning and honing their ability to deploy a network of drones for efficient delivery.  

Instant gratification in getting a last-minute item, prescription drug and fast food in record time are some of the focuses anticipated to drive initial demand. 

Food delivery has grown immensely in popularity, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many different apps available, like Uber Eats, DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, Seamless and Caviar to have your meals and snacks delivered right to your door, many people (including myself) have opted for the convenience. 

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However, how our food is delivered may be changing as more companies are trying drone delivery as a means of instant delivery to customers.  Each company is trying drone delivery in different ways.  One newer concept turned into reality is the latest delivery drone from Zipline called Platform 2.  Zipline has refined the concept of delivery and now is making a turnkey solution that is one of the smartest approaches to the expected explosion in demand. 

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The year 2023 is the year of the drones.

The year 2023 is the year of the drones. (Zipline)

The Platform 2 looks like it should have a cuddly name with the design of the drop vehicle that is lowered from the main hovering drone from 300 feet above. The onboard propellers stabilize the drop in all sorts of challenging weather.  I watched a demo of Platform 2 setting an item down on a backyard table in near silence. Other delivery drones are not so quiet. 

Noise is a huge challenge along with the chaos of drone traffic that is about to be buzzing above our homes in the next year and beyond. While Zipline has invented a smart quiet delivery method, not many others have achieved as much smoothness in their deliveries. 

Local laws range from extreme restrictions to anything goes, and the FAA has taken steps to regulate how and when drones are taking flight.  So much more has yet to be figured out and agreed to, including how to handle traffic in the skies at altitudes that max out at 400 feet.  It’s up to communities to work with drone companies to find standards quickly before drones litter the skies above, becoming more of a nuisance than an enormous benefit. 

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Flytrex drone delivering an item

Flytrex drone delivering an item (Flytrex)

What companies are using drones for food delivery? 

Quite a few businesses have begun testing out drone deliveries over the last few months. Most recently, Starbucks, McDonald’s and Walmart have teamed up with the Israeli automated drone-delivery startup Flytrex to test its drone delivery system through app purchases. 

At the time of publishing, the company was only making deliveries in select locations throughout North Carolina. One woman even posted a video that went viral showing a Starbucks order being delivered via drone. You can check out the video on her Instagram page. 

Other companies throughout the country are using similar systems. El Pollo Loco is testing its Air Loco drone delivery system in California. 

El Pollo Loco is testing a delivery with their Air Loco drone.

El Pollo Loco is testing a delivery with their Air Loco drone. (El Pollo Loco)

Flirtey is a drone delivery company that has partnered with several restaurants, including Pizza Hut and Domino’s. 

Flirtey drone with Domino's delivery. 

Flirtey drone with Domino’s delivery.  (Flirtey)

Wing, which is a drone company owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has partnered with several restaurants as well, including Chick-Fil-A. Uber Eats has been testing out drone deliveries in various locations since 2019. 

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What does this mean for the future of food delivery workers? 

Considering that more and more companies seem to be hopping on the drone trend, it doesn’t look great for food delivery workers. This is an easy way for companies to save more money because they will no longer have to pay people to deliver for them. 

More and more companies are even opting for AI technology within their restaurants, especially in fast-food chains. With self-service machines to make your order, delivery apps and now delivery drones, it’s almost as if these chains are trying to get rid of human workers. 

A delivery drone and controller.

A delivery drone and controller. (CyberGuy.com)

Is drone delivery the better option? 

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I can think of one upside to drone delivery. It will likely cut delivery time in half. Your Uber Eats order takes so long to get to your doorstep because delivery workers typically deal with traffic or congestion, especially during mealtimes. Drone delivery would help that issue immensely. 

However, there are certainly plenty of downsides to this. Aside from putting people out of work, drones are pretty much guaranteed to make every neighborhood a lot noisier. And if a bunch of them are flying around at once, that could make a convenience quickly turn into an annoyance. There’s also always a chance of a drone malfunctioning and crashing, which could be a serious safety hazard. 

Flirtey drone has partnered with several restaurants.

Flirtey drone has partnered with several restaurants. (Flirtey)

I suppose this is why many of these businesses are taking their time to test these delivery drones out before permanently implementing them, so we’ll have to see where it all goes. 

Would you prefer drones delivering your food over people? Let us know what you think. 

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