Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has partnered with fast-food chain Chipotle to test out drone delivery, according to a report from Bloomberg. The experiment, set to launch later this month and last only a few weeks, is by Project Wing (Alphabet’s drone delivery unit) and will provide airborne burrito deliveries to Virginia Tech students. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved the burrito-by-drone program, making it one of the first commercial programs to take flight. Companies like Amazon and Wal-Mart are working on commercializing drones too but have resorted to testing indoors and in other countries due to regulations.
The burrito deliveries will work using a combination of Project Wing drones and Chipotle food trucks. The drones, which are hybrid for both flying and hovering, will take off from a food truck, hover over the destination, and lower the edibles with a winch. Flights will be automated, but human pilots will be on standby to keep the drones from breaking FAA regulations.
Dave Vos, the lead of Project Wing, tells Bloomberg part of the challenge is to see how well a drone can deliver hot grub, whether it’s protected and kept warm during delivery.
“It’s the first time that we’re actually out there delivering stuff to people who want that stuff,” Vos explains.
Since the drones will be flying somewhat solo (not among other drones from other companies), Vos says the pilot program doesn’t assess the creation of a low-level air-traffic system. Luckily, NASA is working with Project Wing to create such a system; this is especially critical if drones are to be buzzing around together.
Project Wing already has the second drone in the works, and it’s said to be better at containing goods for delivery. It won’t be used in the Chipotle program, but we could see it sometime soon. As for Virginia Tech, which is one of the six unmanned test beds in the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, certain employees and students will be able to hail burritos by drone.
Source: Bloomberg Image: Alphabet