When you hear about delivery drones, you probably envision large flying machines that will drop, hopefully slowly, a package right at your doorstep. Most of the time, that is an accurate picture as far as the likes of Amazon or even UPS are concerned. Uber, specifically its Uber Eats arm, is curiously doing it the other way around. It just revealed the design of its planned meal delivery drone that will, almost ironically, leave the actual delivery in the hands of humans.
This might sound strange and almost a waste of time and resources but Uber Eats does have a place for such drones in its process. The drone, which can carry dinner for at most two people, will fly the order from a restaurant to a staging location, potentially the roof of a vehicle. From there, Uber drivers will make the last mile journey and hand the meals over to the customer.
Contrast that to what the likes of Amazon and Google envision, where drones make the full journey from warehouse to doorstep. UPS, on the other hand, has something like Uber’s system but in reverse. The packages are all stored in a truck, which may or may not be driven by a human, and the drones make the last mile journey to the recipient.
Then again, the specs of the Uber Eats drone, designed by Uber’s own Elevate arm, make such a division of labor necessary. According to Forbes, the six-rotor drone can really only fly a range of 12 miles or a total flight time of 18 minutes, and that’s under favorable conditions. You definitely don’t want your meal crashing down somewhere.
Drone delivery services have more than just flight time problems to solve. Although the US Federal Aviation Administration has started to allow drone tests to be conducted, drone makers and the companies that want to rely on them will still have to contend with weather conditions, especially wind, and man-made structures like wires. Not to mention animals that may want to take a peck out of your meal even before you do.