Uber preps test of 30-minute food delivery by drone
- Uber Technologies plans to deliver food by drone as part of a commercial test program approved last week by the federal government, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told attendees at a conference in Los Angeles. The first tests of drone delivery will be in San Diego, per Bloomberg. In a separate partnership, the company also plans to work with NASA and the U.S. Army on building flying cars.
- Consumers can expect meal delivery in five to 30 minutes from a drone or a human, Khosrowshahi said, adding that Uber is now the largest food delivery business in the world. The company launched UberEats in 2014 to partner with restaurants on food delivery, and drones are the latest step in its quest to expand delivery efficiency.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation, which regulates drone activity in the country, chose 10 state, local and tribal governments and a handful of companies, including Alphabet, FedEx, Intel and Qualcomm, to work on commercial drone testing. The test program will collect data from the partnerships for two and half years, according to NPR.
Uber's plans come as commercial companies pair with state governments to drive the evolution of drone technology. While NPR reports that the test project will not receive any federal funds, these partnerships will allow companies to accelerate innovation for their services by bypassing red tape while the government reaps the benefits of the latest tech and data to learn how to safely regulate regular use of drones.
The ride-hailing service specifically is looking to experiment with ways to change and improve the transportation marketplace, both for moving people and for moving goods. Its recent partnership with NASA and the U.S. Army focuses on creating flying cars, with a goal of launching pilot programs in 2020. Uber has also invested in self-driving cars, but its program was halted in March after one of its self-driving vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. Uber plans to begin testing again after the National Transportation Safety Board completes an investigation.
However, as Khosrowshahi told the audience: "Uber can't just be about cars. It has to be about mobility." That includes Uber's commitment to electric bicycles after its acquisition of Jump Bikes last month. The business lets people rent bikes and scooters around cities using an app.
While Uber may benefit from the new drone test program, powerhouse Amazon was left off the list, according to the Hill. Despite failing to win government approval, the e-commerce giant maintains it will remain committed to finding a model for safe drone use in the airspace.
Testing drone delivery for food will be interesting, especially if the technology can shrink delivery times and cut down on car traffic. The governments hosting the pilot drone projects are San Diego; North Carolina; Topeka, Kansas; Reno; Fairbanks, Alaska; the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma; Virginia; North Dakota; Memphis; and Lee County Mosquito Control District in Florida, per Bloomberg. Each area has its own goals for drone delivery, including mosquito abatement, agricultural surveying and package delivery, among many others.