It appears capitalism plus mechanical engineering equals food deliveries, with Uber set to deliver McDonald’s via drones in California later this year.
Uber Elevate is the department responsible for this — its focus is on developing aerial delivery and transport technologies.
According to their website, “The Uber Elevate team is working toward transforming the world through aerial ridesharing at scale. Imagine soaring above congested ground traffic. With Uber Air, this future is closer than you think. Uber is developing shared air transportation - planned for 2023 - between suburbs and cities, and ultimately within cities.”
However, the department has faced some setbacks. They predicted that they would have a ridesharing service ready to go by 2021, but at this stage, the commercial release won’t be until at least 2023.
Despite this, they have already begun implementing these technologies in collaboration with the Uber Eats side of the business. The company was cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in San Diego to deliver food via drone technologies.
They have since announced they will deliver meals from McDonald’s and two other local restaurants in San Diego via drones.
So, how will this work? Staff at the restaurant will load the order onto an Uber Eats drone. The drone will fly the food to a staging location, where it will be collected by a courier and driven the final kilometre to the customer.
Eventually, the company plans to have the drone land on top of Uber Eats delivery cars, using an identifying QR code.
The reason behind this new endeavour is to maintain fast delivery times in dense urban environments. Uber will still be utilizing couriers for the last leg of these deliveries to negate the problems associated with home deliveries in built-up areas. According to Uber Elevate’s head of flight operations Luke Fischer, 68% of the world’s population expected to live in such areas by 2050.
“We don’t need to get drones direct to our customer, we just have to get it close,” he said.
“There have been many attempts at drone delivery: landing on mailboxes and in backyards with parachutes attached.
“But we run into the same problems with those. It simply doesn’t work in dense urban environments where people don’t have backyards, don’t have drone capable mailboxes and don’t have backyards for parachutes.”
Uber has already tested some deliveries from McDonald’s to the San Diego State University campus, using an off-the-shelf AR200 drone.
The company has now built a custom drone specifically for food delivery to be debuted later this year.
“Our goal is to expand Uber Eats drone delivery so we can provide more options to more people at the tap of a button,” said Fischer.
“We believe that Uber is uniquely positioned to take on this challenge as we’re able to leverage the Uber Eats network of restaurant partners and delivery partners as well as the aviation experience and technology of Uber Elevate.”
Dickey, Megan Rose, and Megan Rose Dickey. “Uber Adds Another Air Taxi Vehicle Partner to the Mix.” TechCrunch, TechCrunch, 11 June 2019, techcrunch.com/2019/06/11/uber-adds-another-air-taxi-vehicle-partner-to-the-mix/.
Rapier, Graham. “Uber Says It Will Deliver McDonald's Meals via Drones in San Diego as Soon as This Year.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 12 June 2019, www.businessinsider.com/uber-eats-drones-will-deliver-mcdonalds-in-san-diego-2019-6?IR=T.