Are Robots the Future of Restaurant Food Delivery?
Most of us are well aware of drones and their ability to fly, drive, or pilot their way through nearly any movement medium. And with technologies like the United States Air Force General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, Google Driverless Car, and hundreds of remote-controlled consumer drones on the market, most of us have had some contact with them.
What most of us don’t think about is that drones are quickly becoming integrated into everyday life. In Colorado, Sherriff’s departments have been using drones for rescue missions, speeding checks, and other day-to-day tasks for years. So has the military.
But, they’re also getting even closer. In 2016, Postmates and DoorDash teamed up with StarShip Technologies to offer food delivery by drone. Both services offer restaurant to door delivery, typically through minimum-wage motorcycle and car drivers – but with Starship, the work is handled via drone, and automatically delivered to an address.
How Does It Work?
The Starship Technologies robots look something like a cooler on wheels, with a closed lid hard body and a flag to prevent cars from hitting them. The 6-wheeled vehicles reach a maximum speed of 5 miles per hour, making them ideal for neighborhood deliveries – but not for long distances. They also have the capacity to carry up to 40 lbs., making them ideal for groceries including liquids, as well as hot food.
While drones are adept at avoiding obstacles, keeping to sidewalks, and alerting homeowners when their food is ready – the big challenge for many has been preventing theft. With no real locks and no way to detect who is getting food, theft has been a big problem. As a result, Starship Technologies has been testing anti-theft technology, and now integrate customer links for unlocking, two-way video and audio, and GPS tracking to prevent tampering.
Is It Working?
Starship Technologies has been so successful with their drones that many additional companies are now adding them on. In the UK, JustEat, a similar restaurant delivery service, delivered it’s 1,000th meal via drone, just 4 months after implementing the service. Their trial fleet grew to 12 drones, and they’ve since added on more – with popular customer reception. Worldwide, the drones have come into contact with millions, and made thousands of deliveries and is currently in the process of partnering with Pizza Hut.
Will they take off? That remains to be seen. But, these drones are safe, reliable, and cheap in comparison with hiring delivery drivers. They could also be instrumental in enabling same-day delivery for groceries, because a drone can deliver groceries within 2 hours inside of a 2-mile radius. That’s not bad, considering someone only has to pack it and input an address, after which the drone does the rest.
However, it is a stark contrast to Amazon’s much flashier airborne drone delivery project. Their drones promise to handle deliveries in 30 minutes or less to people in local areas, but take flight – limiting loads to 30 lbs. Considering that airborne vehicles are more prone to accident, including weather-related issues, Starship’s solution is certainly the safer – if more boring – of the two delivery options.
What do you think? Would you like to have your food delivered by drone?