We knew Uber was accelerating its drone program, and as of today, we have a few more clues as to just just how fast the company is going. Bloomberg got a first-hand look at Uber Elevate, the company’s drone division, and how it would work for food delivery. Though the test flight Bloomberg watched was a bust because of the weather, there was still a bunch we learned from the article.
Uber has been testing drone food delivery with McDonald’s in San Diego this year, developing flight paths and even working on new forms of packaging to keep food at the right temperatures. As of now Uber’s plan isn’t to fly a drone directly to your driveway. Instead, it will fly to a drop-off location where an Uber Eats driver in a car will pick it up and bring it the rest of the way. Eventually, Uber predicts it will land the drone on the top of parked Uber cars.
This may seem overly complicated, but Uber says a drone can travel 1.5 miles in 7 minutes versus 21 minutes by ground. So a drone could fly past city congestion to shave off delivery time, even with a pick-up car involved.
But that’s still a ways away for the company, which has not gotten FAA approval for commercial delivery yet. Uber told Bloomberg that it believes it is three years out from drone delivery happening in select markets.
In the meantime, there’s plenty of issues that Uber will need to work out. Inclement weather, for one, the danger posed by mid-air collisions into trees, wires or other drones for another, and also the noise (just ask the town of Canberra, Australia about the drone of drones).
Additionally, Uber is going to have to contend with fleets of other drones in the sky, all vying to bring you a burrito. Last week, Amazon unveiled it’s high-tech transforming delivery drone and said it would be making commercial deliveries “within months.” And earlier this year, Google’s Wing division got FAA approval to make drone deliveries.
Uber Elevate will evidently unveil a new drone of its own later this year that can reach speeds of 70 mph. The race to bring drone delivery to market is certainly speeding up.