One company may be giving your local food delivery person some cause for worry, or atleast a run for his money. Project Wing, which is a drone delivery service project supported by the Google-owned Alphabet-X Lab, is now sending drones carrying burrito food orders to various parts of the Australian countryside.
The tests were made possible by a suprising partnership between a couple of local Australia businesses, Mexican food chain Guzman y Gomez, as well as drugstore company Chemist Warehouse.
Customers in areas that have access problems that prevent speedy food delivery services were the target. However, this is not only the case for restaurant or fast food items, but also for basic food products or prescription drugs. There are unique challenges facing people living in the area around capital city Canberra, where the test food was delivered.
James Ryan Burgess, one of the Project Wing managers who hopes that the drones will help in alleviating some of the problems, explains that in some areas customers "face a 40-minute round trip in the car for almost anything, whether it's a carton of milk, veggies for dinner, or a cup of coffee."
The success of these tests could be very promising for Project Wing, as it would represent its first venture into direct, door-to-door delivery. There were similar deliveries made last year—in partnership with Chipotle—at Virginia Tech University, but "in an open field, not to a specific address or location."
Burgess is quick to acknowledge, however, that there are some challenges which will need to be addressed related to safe and effective navigation, as well as following any customer requests involving very detailed or specific drop off points. He feels that with each test, new approaches and solutions will be learned to improve the overall process. Simply put, there are obstacles which seem small or are easily avoided by a delivery person that could become a problem for the drones in the middle of an important delivery:
"With each delivery, we encounter a new yard space with its own layout of trees, sheds, fences, and power lines." Moreover, working with hot items from a restaurant and a highly detailed and organized product inventory from a drugstore company will present quite a learning curve:
"The information we gather from both of these test partners will help us build a system so that merchants of all kinds can focus on what they're good at — like making food or helping people feel healthier — rather than being distracted by complex delivery logistics."
Drone delivery services have been gaining more and more momentum in the past five years, with a number of restaurants, retailers and online shopping companies eager to get in on the action. Still, it remains to be seen whether the drones will become an accessory or a mainstay for delivery services as we now know them. Only time will tell: however, all signs in the industry are indicating that we won’t have much longer to wait.