Domino’s Pizza in New Zealand is on a mission to become the world’s first company to offer a commercial drone delivery service. The fast food chain demonstrated a pizza delivery by an air-borne drone last week (24th August 2016) in the city of Auckland, and confirmed that it will be fully operational dispensing pizzas by drone later this year. Domino’s said it is also looking at opportunities for drone delivery trials in Australia, Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Japan and Germany.
Watch the action in this video capturing ‘history in the making’!
Some of the world’s biggest companies including Amazon.com and Google have plans to make deliveries by drone. Meanwhile aviation authorities in the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand have been relaxing rules to allow air deliveries. In July this year US. convenience store chain 7-Eleven conducted the first single commercial drone delivery – coffee, donuts and a chicken sandwich – as part of a trial.
“We’ve always said that it doesn’t make sense to have a 2-tonne machine delivering a 2-kilogram order,” Domino’s Chief Executive Officer Don Meij said on the day of the Aukland trial.
Domino’s Pizza is working with drone builder Flirtey. Flirtey is an Australian start-up based in Nevada which aims to save lives and change lifestyles by making delivery instant.
The Flirtey drone used by Domino’s is lightweight and autonomously controlled. Once the drone reaches its location, it hovers and lowers the package via a cord. Once the delivery has been successfully made, the cord retracts and the drone returns.
Support from the NZ aviation authority
With relatively low amounts of air traffic, compared to Europe, and a small population of 4.4 million, New Zealand last year became one of the world’s first countries to clear commercial drone deliveries. New Zealand Transport Minister Simon Bridges said: “Our enabling laws and regulation means we have the ideal environment.”
However sceptics are already pointing out there is a rule requiring drones to be kept in sight of the operator at all times, which could make deliveries difficult to execute efficiently. The issues of electrical power lines and other hazards also need to be considered.
Progress is being made in other countries regarding clearance from aviation authorities, but with strict compliance around proximity to houses, which could make regular deliveries to customers impossible. In Australia, drone deliveries will be legal from September 2016, provided the drones stay at least 30 metres (100 feet) from houses. In the United States, drones will be allowed to make deliveries from August 29th, as long as they do not cross state lines.
Reality of drones getting closer?
Drones really are no longer the reserve of the sci-fi world, says Liam Chennells, Head of Commercial at Shutl. He points out that there are limitations for this technology such as distance covered and a weight limit on how much they can transport. “However, if drones can improve customer experience (and the evidence to date suggests they can and that it will help meet shoppers demands for immediacy, control and convenience), it isn’t a case of ‘if’, it’s a case of ‘when’ these delivery vehicles are implemented here in the UK.”
He added: “It may difficult for many people to envisage drones flying up and down our streets but while politicians continue to call for less congested roads and customer demand for immediate fulfillment increases, we need to accept that it’s a reality getting ever closer.”
According to drone builder Flirtey’s website a big focus of their work to date has been on sending life-saving medicines to remote locations by unmanned drones. Perhaps this is a more feasible use of the technology than fast food deliveries, but it’s interesting to see that companies like this are working so hard – and with big global companies – to progress drones for commercial delivery
According to Flirtey’s website: “Drones can be operated commercially in a growing number of countries. We’re in discussions with regulators all around the world, and we’re helping to shape the regulations and systems that will make drone delivery the most effective, personal and frictionless delivery method in the market.”
Well, there will be many regulations to overcome, so we’ll keep holding our breath on this one. The ruling that the drone must be in sight of the operator at all times does make commercial delivery on any scale seem impossible, and means no saving is made on manpower, because manpower is still a crucial part of the operational process. There are still many regulatory hurdles for drone to clear before they become a mainstream part of e-fulfilment.
- Flirtey for media use only