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Uber Announces Fast Food Drone Delivery in San Diego this Summer—but FAA Approval Is Still Pending

BY Zacc Dukowitz
18 June 2019

Uber recently announced that they’ll be testing fast food delivery by drone in San Diego this summer.

uber-eats-drones
Photo credit: Uber

The deliveries will not be made directly to people’s homes, but rather to “designated safe landing zones.” Couriers working for Uber Eats will then unload and deliver the package directly to the customer’s door.

About the Delivery Program

Uber has been spurred to do these drone delivery tests in San Diego by the success of Uber Eats’ revenue growth of 150% from 2018, or a whopping $1.5 billion.

Our customers want selection, quality, and ­efficiency—all areas that improve with drone delivery.

– Eric Allision, Head of Aerial Projects for Uber

The drone that will be used for the deliveries are AR200 hexacopters custom-fitted to carry the payload needed for a given delivery. In the case of McDonald’s, for instance, special packages have been designed to keep food intact during transport.

uber-elevate-AR200-drone
The AR200 Drone

According to Uber, its drones can make a delivery over a 1.5 mile distance in a congested urban area within seven minutes—much faster than the 21 minutes it would take a car or cyclist, who has to deal with traffic on the ground.

The delivery fee for getting a drone-delivered Uber Eats meal in San Diego will be roughly the same as the normal cost (around $8.50 per order). Right now McDonald’s is the only partner for these deliveries.

Uber Elevate

Uber Elevate is the aerial arm of Uber, overseeing both drone delivery and drone taxis, another project Uber has been working on for several years.

Earlier this year, Uber Elevate conducted initial testing of food delivery by drone. These test deliveries extended up to a half-mile, and took place on the campus of San Diego State University and in the surrounding area.

The testing was promising and helped pave the way for the company’s decision to expand drone delivery in select areas within the city this summer.

Right now Uber is confident that drone delivery will be widely adopted in the future. According to a recent statement, they predict that drone deliveries will be common ten years from now, with fast food restaurants redesigning their kitchens around them.

Uber Elevate is also optimistic about the future of drone taxis.

At its third annual Elevate conference this year, the company unveiled new designs for their drone taxis, sharing plans for performing tests in 2020, with a forecasted commercial launch in 2023.

uber-elevate-drones
Photo credit: Uber

FAA Approval Still Pending

We’ve been working closely with the FAA to ensure that we’re meeting requirements and prioritizing safety.

– Luke Fischer, Flight Operations Chief for Uber Elevate

Despite all the buzz, Uber still has not secured FAA approval for the drone delivery program they’ve announced for this summer.

On the surface this fact might seem dire. But given that San Diego is a UAS IPP site where various drone tests have already been conducted by Uber and others, it seems likely they will receive approval.

Nevertheless, we imagine Uber is going to feel a little bit anxious until they actually have that approval in hand.

[Wondering how much progress the UAS IPP has made since launching? Check out our one year review.]

Excited for Uber’s drone delivery program to launch? Skeptical it will happen, given they still lack FAA approval? Hop into this thread in the UAV Coach community forum to share your thoughts.

Zacc Dukowitz

Contributing Writer

A writer with professional experience in education technology and digital marketing, Zacc Dukowitz is passionate about reporting on the drone industry at a time when UAVs can help us live better lives. Zacc also holds the rank of nidan in Aikido, a Japanese martial art, and is a widely published fiction writer. Zacc has an MFA from the University of Florida and a BA from St. John's College. Follow @zaccdukowitz or check out zaccdukowitz.com to read his work.

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