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Uber’s futuristic drone delivery service could launch as early as this summer

Published Jun 12th, 2019 11:05PM EDT
Uber Eats
Image: Valentin Wolf/imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock

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It may have seemed like science fiction just a few years ago, but a world filled with package-carrying drones zooming by overhead is right around the corner. Just last week, Amazon announced that its Prime Air delivery service would start delivering packages in just a few months time. And now comes word that Uber is planning to unleash its own fleet of drones in the near future.

Not to be confused with Uber’s flying car initiative, the ridesharing company’s drone strategy in question is a bit more subdued but still ambitious in its own right. Specifically, Uber is currently seeking FAA approval for drones that would be able to help deliver food to customers as part of the company’s Uber Eats program, according to a new report from Bloomberg.

If all goes according to plan, Uber is hoping to launch a pilot program of food-delivering drones in San Diego sometime this summer. Now to be clear, drones wouldn’t be delivering food directly to customers, but would rather bring deliveries to a pre-determined landing spot where Uber couriers would carry out the final leg of the trip.

Another use-case scenario involves drones actually landing on top of parked Uber cars that would be identifiable via a QR code.

The company is betting that customers will demand drones for the time savings and eventually, price savings. For a delivery 1.5 miles away, ground transportation averages 21 minutes; drones can make the trip in about 7 minutes. Uber ElevateUber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is planning to unveil its own customized drone this year, reaching speeds up to 70 mph.

As intriguing as this all sounds, it may take some time before this type of drone delivery service becomes commonplace. According to Uber’s Kate Fraser, it might take until 2022 before drone food delivery takes off across a number of markets. Uber’s foray into delivery drones shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. About a year ago, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told attendees at a flying-taxi conference that “we need flying burgers.”

And if you happen to live in San Diego, you might be able to order one sooner rather than later.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.