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The biggest success story in food delivery is pizza, which fast became a staple of American society integrating itself into cultural norms and further translating into consumer laziness with an expectation for things to be brought to them. However, as time passed and gas prices and food costs went up, pizza delivery costs increased as well. Eventually, pizza franchises passed the costs onto the consumer in the form of a delivery charge, which was also expected to be paid on top of tips that the consumer also paid to the driver. This made food delivery impractical.

Enter the drone. An article in the International Business Times highlighted 14 peaceful uses for drones, one of which being food delivery. Leading pizza chain Domino’s Pizza was one of the first major pizza franchises to advocate the use of drones, and even ran an experiment in 2013 to deliver pizza via drone in the United Kingdom.

In the United States, however, flying drones for commercial use is still illegal according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This legal hurdle may be one of the highest to overcome in order to have drones used for peaceful purposes. The drone market is currently valued at $103 million as of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015. If drones are cleared for commercial use, this number could skyrocket.

“Drone companies need to overcome high prices and impractical design problems to make the machines more appealing to mainstream consumers,” said Brian Blau, a research director at Gartner, an information technology research firm. “The least expensive drones still cost about $400. Many of the devices on display at the CES are not yet on sale because the companies are still perfecting their designs,” he said.

Blau also told the U.S. News & World Report technical difficulties that were still being overcome to get to consumer functionality. Once the technical and legal issues are resolved, drones could be beneficial to not only businesses that deliver pizza, but would also allow all other types of food to be delivered as well.

Amazon intended to use drones to deliver packages (including food) using Amazon Prime Air. Some experts also weighed in on drone delivery, saying it solved one of the biggest problems traditional delivery had. “You have the technology that can help the most difficult part of delivery: The last-mile problem. You have a lightweight package going to a single destination. You cannot aggregate packages. It’s still way too complicated and expensive. It’s very energy inefficient,” said Andreas Raptopoulos, founder of Matternet, a company that wants to deploy a drone network to deliver light packages. “UAVs or drones deal with the problem of doing this very efficiently with extremely low cost and high reliability. It’s the best answer to the problem. The ratio of your vehicle to your payload weight is very low,” he continued.

Raptopoulos also mentioned to The Atlantic that drone delivery of food might not even happen in the United States first due to the legal issues that have to be overcome. “It’s not going to happen in the U.S. in the next two or three years. Even if you’re optimistic, it’s not going to happen before three to five years,” he said. “Our assumption is that this may happen in other places in the world first. It may happen in the global south in countries that are developing and don’t have alternatives. There, it’s not about cost reduction but giving access when you don’t have access at all,” he said.

Could the delivery of food via drone happen? Maybe when the legal challenges are overcome, we could at least see the timetable for when drones will be available for commercial uses such as food delivery.


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