Can Drones Actually Deliver?


There is a lot of PR locally and internationally right now around the possibility of drones doing food delivery. Whilst the sci-fi imagery of a flying machine delivering you a hot burger and chips is quite compelling, it is frought with many, many challenges. More so than perhaps the companies behind the technology may appreciate.

I have been around the food delivery app scene for over 10 years in one shape or another, and I have seen it all. I can assure you when it comes to delivery, the logistics can be a nightmare.

It is one thing being able to take a lightweight product from Point A to Point B in perfect weather conditions, and for it to be legal to do so. It is an altogether different prospect trying to deliver a family order of multiple pizzas, ice cream and drinks on a drone that is limited to being able to carry a relativelty small load.

Also, my understanding is that it requires the restaurants to take on a management role of the drone. Charge it, store it, input the order number, attach the order and then find an open space out front or back to release it. All I can say is, I wish you every luck with that. Most of our outbound customer care calls are to ask takeaways to switch their Marvin machine on. That is just pushing a button. I fear the expectations of what a busy takeaway is willing to invest in man power for this is potentially unrealistic.

Then there is the issue of actual delivery. The drones will not go direct to your door, but instead find a nearby “safe open space” to lower the food via a winch system. So you have to get up and walk to the designated safe space and wait for the drone to drop the food down to you. I’m certain in the beginning there will be the novelty factor of trying it and people not minding, but the last thing you want if you order takeaway on a regular basis is to be seen constantly taking food in public, from what is not exactly the most discreet method of delivery. Something is to be said for a polite knock at the door. I also understand that built-up area deliveries will remain a challenge for drones, which is handy when most orders come from built-up areas.

Also, if the weather is adverse the drones simply won’t go out. In Ireland I’m sure that is unlikely to ever be an issue.

I will openly admit that we held initial discussions with one such company about seeing how we could work together, because like most people, the idea was quite intoxicating, but when you dig into the finer detail over the logistics you begin to see the challenges that drone delivery has and I have to question; can they be overcome in time and with technology?

I am sceptical, but one thing I will say is that if food delivery is to get faster and more reliable as a whole, then the likely solution will be a technical one. Drones are unlikely to lead the revolution, but they could be the catalyst that leads to the actual technology that does.

Or I could end up eating humble pie – delivered by a drone 🙂