Goodbye meals on wheels, hello pie in the sky. Pizza Hut will trial its drone-based pizza delivery service as soon as June, according to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal.
Pizza Hut Israel is planning on testing a system which sees meal-carrying drones deliver packages to its delivery drivers in remote, government-approved landing zones. The drivers will still need to help the pizza along on its last leg of the journey, mind, but the idea is that the company can distribute more pizzas en masse at speedier delivery times.
It’s nothing ground-breaking, but it still marks progress towards the driverless future envisioned by major delivery services the world over. According to Ido Levanon, CEO and director of drone manufacturer Dragontail, the technology could prove “vital to the current crisis impacting the restaurant industry” in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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“Our drone deliveries provide restaurants and delivery drivers an opportunity to reach an extended customer base while doing so in a safe and cost-effective manner,” Levanon said in a written statement. The company has also said it’s working with other fast food chains, KFC and Dominos among them, to “optimize ordering and delivery processes.”
Pigs might fly
There are, of course, many challenges facing these food delivery outlets. For starters, current weight limits restrict deliveries to about 5.5 lbs (2.5 kg), or around two pizzas and a bottle of soda, according to the report. Pizza Hut has said it’s hoping to increase the limit before test deliveries begin in June, but signs point towards a long wait before your five-pizza orders (no judgement) make it into the air.
“Drone delivery is a sexy thing to talk about, but it’s not realistic to think we’re going to see drones flying all over the sky dropping pizzas into everyone’s backyards anytime soon,” Levanon told the Wall Street Journal.
It’s an issue facing the likes of Amazon, too. Prime Air — the company’s planned drone delivery service — has been in development since 2013, but a commercial solution hasn’t yet materialised. The service aims to use drones to autonomously fly individual packages to customers within 30 minutes of ordering, but qualifying orders must fall below the 5 lbs (2.25 kg) weight limit and must be small enough to fit in the drone’s cargo box.
The point being, lots of companies are spending time and money developing a working system of drone delivery, but the logistics — and technology required — of such an operation remains a major headache.
The good news is that brands like Pizza Hut are making genuine strides towards a driverless future. Along with Israel, the company is working with the US and UK to solve the practical concerns of drone-delivery operations in urban areas. How exactly food chains and regulators plan to bridge those logistical gaps is a mystery, but it’s likely any developments are being kept on a strictly knead-to-know basis at this point (sorry…).