Good eats could soon be a drone flight away, if Uber’s aviation division has its way.
Uber Elevate unveiled a new food-delivery drone at Forbes’ Under 30 Summit in Detroit on Monday.
Although the company declined to reveal the hexa-copter’s designer, Uber Elevate head Eric Allison told conference-goers the UAV is vertical and horizontal flight-capable (which sounds a lot like Amazon’s drone design).
With a range of 18 miles and an 18-minute flight time, the six-rotor aircraft can carry “enough food to feed two adults.”
Allison expects the program to roll out later this year in San Diego where Uber Elevate has been testing urban aerial delivery via the UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP).
Unlike other drone-delivery initiatives, Uber Elevate’s will use landing zones rather than store-to-door flights. Uber drivers will meet a meal-laden drone at a “staging area. The drive then delivers it to the customer.
“There have been many attempts at drone delivery: landing on mailboxes and in backyards with parachutes attached,” Luke Fischer, Uber Elevate’s head of flight operations, said at a company conference in June.
“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.”
Using new technology from ModalAI, a lightweight computing platform with 4G cellular connectivity, the Uber Eats drone can maintain a flight path when out of sight of the pilot.
“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,” Fischer said.
Uber Elevate’s announcement demonstrates how seriously multi-national companies are taking drone delivery.
Last month, Walgreens announced a partnership with Alphabet UAV spinoff Wing to launch a store-to-door drone delivery service to select customers in Christianburg, Va.
Eligible customers will be able to order from a menu of more than 100 Walgreens products as well as pre-packaged bundles for allergies, baby-care, cough/cold, first-aid, pain relief and snacks.