Uber Eats are testing drone delivery services, with a view to introducing them in San Diego next year.
How will drone deliveries work?
Uber Eats have announced that their drone delivery test run will begin in San Diego by Summer 2020. Deliveries will be made to ‘designated safe landing zones’ rather than directly to a customers door.
At those landing zones, the Uber driver will collect the delivery and take it on to the customer. It isn’t yet clear exactly where and how landing sites will be chosen, but these will be traced by the drone using QR codes and inbuilt scanners.
The newly unveiled drone design can carry up to two meals, with an eight minute battery life and so is only currently suitable for short journeys. The total range is around 12 miles in total, which equates to approximately 18 minutes journey time.
What other changes are Uber making?
There are also plans firmly underway to replace traditional cars with air taxis as part of the Uber Elevate programme. This aims to introduce ‘shared air transportation’ by 2023, launching fleets of small electronic aircraft in Dallas and Los Angeles. Uber also plan to trial air taxis in Melbourne, Australia as their first delve into the international market.
Are other companies looking to test pilot drones?
There has been talk for the last four or five years about the potential of delivery drone services.
Amazon Prime Air announced in June of this year that they are within ‘months’ of launching drone delivery services. They have been granted a one year certification by the FAA to operate their MK27 drones within the US, restricted to authorised areas.
Fedex are also looking at using drones. Last summer, a collective of ten US government and regional departments won approval from the Department of Transportation to begin testing. This is in partnership with FedEx Corp. and Intel Corp.
The intention is to use drones to deliver aeroplane parts for FedEx within Memphis International Airport. There are also tests approved to use drones to delivery emergency medical equipment to critical patients.
Is this a good thing?
It depends on your perspective! Uber says that drones will facilitate deliveries up to three times faster than couriers alone. The cost is likely to be similar to existing delivery fees, which are about $8.50 in San Diego where the test is being run.
However, there are concerns about the safety and privacy infringements of using drones, and how likely accidents are to happen with these being used in heavily populated areas.
There is also the question of the impact on employment. Uber currently employs 19,000 people in the US and whilst couriers will still be needed to unload and make final deliveries, there is bound to be a knock on in unemployment.
Machines replacing people; we all knew it was coming!