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Uber CEO says he wants ‘flying burgers’ to be a thing

Uber drones food delivery

Here’s how ambitious Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has gotten, ahead of the possibility that his ride-hailing company could IPO next year at a valuation of as much as $120 billion.

He’s been talking up the idea of drone food delivery big time lately. It might sound like a flight of fancy (pardon the pun), but The Wall Street Journal recently spotted a since-pulled job listing that showed Uber is hunting for an executive to help launch just such a program. Internally, that drone food delivery effort is known as UberExpress, with the company hoping to get the drones airborne and operating as part of its existing UberEats side business in a few markets by 2021.

From the WSJ’s report: The drone executive Uber is looking to hire “will ‘enable safe, legal, efficient and scalable flight operations,’ according to the job listing, which refers to UberExpress, an internal name used for the drone delivery operation within its UberEats prepared-food delivery unit. After an inquiry from The Wall Street Journal, Uber removed the job listing titled ‘Flight Standards and Training’ from its site. A spokesman said the posting ‘does not fully reflect our program, which is still in very early days.'”

The paper goes on to suggest this is part of Uber trying to craft a narrative around the company that shows there’s a lot more to it than simply ferrying people from Point A to Point B via the main Uber app. Indeed, one would think it can only serve to help entice investor interest by showcasing Uber’s dabbling in everything from drone food delivery to electric scooter and bike rentals, as the main ride-hailing part of the company has been dinged by a lack of profits and one scandal after another.

Beyond food, Uber has also been public about wanting flying taxis to become a reality, a program it’s been eyeing for a 2020 launch. UberEats has likewise been a positive story for the company, having expanded to hundreds of cities and being on track to reach $6 billion in annual gross food sales.

Khosrowshahi said at the company’s flying-taxi conference in May, the WSJ report continues, “that it plans to run limited tests of food delivery by drone, but the job listing suggests the company is more serious about the initiative than previously believed. The company chose San Diego to test commercial drones in several U.S. cities as part of a federal program that includes firms like Alphabet Inc. and FedEx Corp.

“’We need flying burgers,’ said Mr. Khosrowshahi at the conference. He said deliveries within five to 30 minutes could be possible.”

To be sure, other companies like Amazon and UPS have made no secret about their similar interest in exploring the idea of using drones to deliver products. 7-Eleven has even gotten in on the act, running a drone food delivery test earlier this year in Reno, Nevada.

Andy Meek profile photo

Andy Meek is a reporter who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming. Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.