When Uber Eats announced it would start testing drone deliveries in San Diego during 2020, it raised questions if this would become common practice. Although many companies have discussed delivering food via drones, logistics and other problems continue to prevent their implementation.
The vice president and general manager of the Food and Beverage Division at Phononic, Dana Krug, shared his thoughts on drones in an interview. It seems likely that in the future many deliveries will happen with drone technology, but it may take several more years.
Drone Food Delivery
“Drone delivery appears to be the next frontier for ecommerce, with major players like Amazon and Uber investing heavily in the technology. In fact, Jeff Bezos said back in 2013 that Amazon would have drone delivery up and running by 2018. But the FAA has not allowed for this so far,” Krug said.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations restrict how, where and when companies or individuals use drones. Even with federal approval and fewer restrictions, drone delivery is likely to roll out in slow stages.
Uber Eats, for example, plans to leverage drones to move meals from restaurants to pre-determined locations, but a delivery driver will ultimately bring the food to its final destination. It will likely be several years before consumers see sophisticated and widespread drone delivery of individual meals and select items and even longer before full-scale grocery delivery.
“When it comes to consumer appetite, the demand is certainly present — though shoppers want more than just the novelty of drones to click the buy button. The same concerns remain regardless of delivery method,” Krug said.
A Phononic survey that asked shoppers what items they would be willing to order for drone delivery revealed that more than 60% of respondents said they would order dry goods through a drone delivery service. On the other hand, only 26% were willing to order fresh produce or meat.
The survey highlights one of the biggest concerns for consumers: How will drones keep their food at the right temperature? Companies like Amazon and Uber must figure out how to control the temperature of these smaller, airborne units just as they must figure out how to do it for doorstep delivery packages.
“In the ecommerce race, the true differentiator will be the company that can provide consumers not only with timely delivery but also quality delivery of a wider variety of goods, including fresh foods,” Krug added.
The development of efficient, temperature-controlled drones may be the key to having them handle food delivery. It may take several years before a drone drops off your groceries at the front door.