Will drone-based food delivery service render DoorDash, Uber Eats and Caviar obsolete?

A Tel Aviv-based drone delivery company, called Flytrex, recently started providing Americans with meals from Brinker International’s restaurants, including Chili’s, It’s Just Wings, and Maggiano’s Little Italy. Flytrex says that its US-based services reflect a partnership between Causey Aviation Unmanned, The Federal Aviation Administration, and the North Carolina Department of Transportation, as well as The Town of Holly Springs and Kite Reality Group Trust.

In Holly Springs, drones are transporting food to both backyards and front yards. Dozens of households have already opted into the service. Mayor of Holly Springs, Dick Sears, reports that town residents are enthusiastic about the drone service. He noted that the people of Holly Springs “pride themselves on embracing new innovations”.

Where is the flying pizza?

The Flytrex app enables users to order food and to track its whereabouts en-route to their doorsteps. Upon arrival, the drone lowers a wire into the customer’s yard, at the end of which rests the food. At present, Flytrex food deliveries take an average of 25 minutes; from kitchen to home counter top. The company is already working on ways to expand the service over the course of the next several months.

CEO Yariv Bash says that the company is eager to highlight the benefits of drone delivery for area residents and businesses. “We are soaring into a new age in which smart cities harness the immense power of drones to maximize efficiency and feed consumers’ growing appetite for on-demand deliveries — all while reducing our carbon footprint,” he stated. Flytrex COO, Ben Thein says “we’re here to disrupt the food deliveries industry.”

More drone delivery options on the way

Is this the latest fad in ‘eatertainment’ or will flying food really takeoff? Numerous groups appear to be piloting drone deliveries of food and commercial goods. Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit, Amazon.com and dozens of startups have drone delivery plans. Most organizations continue to face challenges around regulatory approval and consumer trust.

In the US, the FAA has approved nine programs to test out commercial drone usage. Flytrex participates in one such program. In the European Union, new regulations around autonomous flying drones recently came into effect.

For some businesses, drone food delivery is significantly more cost-effective for restaurants than offering regular delivery, especially in the wake of rising wage requirements.

Drones, climate change, and wildlife

Drone delivery reduces traffic and air pollution, serving as a potentially environmentally friendly alternative to human delivery systems. However, will the carbon-friendly future plans potentially hurt birds or other wildlife?

One drone delivery company recently halted services after a nesting raven nearly disrupted the trajectory of a drone delivering hot coffee. The affected enterprise states that this raven’s behavior appeared more aggressive than expected.

Mike Weston, associate professor of wildlife conservation at Deakin University, notes that bird attacks on drones are not a rare phenomena. “Deakin is about to release a study of 275 drone pilots showing that almost 20% reported physical contact between their drone and a bird. So it’s a problem.” Experts remain unsure as to whether the birds mistake drones for other birds or whether they simply see the flying object as a threat.

More dramatic culinary stunts

Some restauranteurs are envisioning a world in which a neighborhood on a virtual map app shows nearby restaurants that operate ghost kitchens; from which people can order, but not actually set foot within. Certain restaurant options or products may be exclusive to the virtual restaurant ordering experience; no in-store parallels will exist.

The power of apps

Nearly all of the fast-flying, virtual dining options rely on capable and efficient delivery apps. Pre-pandemic, roughly 22 million people used apps in order to bring food to their doorsteps. Now, more than 33 million do so. Restaurants are trying to revive their presence in a reconfigured, and somewhat unknown world. Will they find their niche in producing gourmet meals that cannot dwell in a box for 20 minutes?

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