Confession: I’m still waiting for my goddamn Amazon delivery drones. I want to order something, and then I want an autonomous flying machine to immediately deliver it to my house, gently placing it on the ground before going to serve another customer.
While flying delivery drones are being held up for a number reasons (mostly a mix of legal and technological), great strides are being made. Just look at what Google – sorry, Alphabet – is doing this month.
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The company’s research arm, called X, will be testing its latest unmanned aerial vehicles on Virginia Tech University to deliver burritos to some lucky (and quite possibly hungry) students.
X’s drones will take flight from a Chipotle Mexican Grill food truck, and then fly to an official waiting several feet away. The official will then distribute the burritos to waiting customers, who will be a mix of faculty and students.
The test will last for several days, and will be limited to a parcel of land that has been sanctioned for testing by the Federal Aviation Administration.
This experiment aims to test not just how well the technology performs at delivering prepared food, particularly in peak times, but also how receptive humans will be to the sight of low-flying unmanned aircraft.
Will the Hokies of Virginia Tech be unfazed by the burrito drones, or will it unsettle them? Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, X chief Astro Teller (yes, that’s his name) said “We want to learn how people feel when they’re receiving a package by air.”
“Technology is shaped and changed as it makes contact with the real world,” he added.
This isn’t X’s first experiment with drone-based delivery. In 2014 it used them to deliver dog treats, radios, and chocolate to farmers living in the Australian outback. The lessons it learned from this experiment were used to improve the design of the drones.
Either way, as someone who has spent his life inching towards a quadruple heart bypass, I’m excited about the prospect of having my fast food fix being delivered by aircraft.
Alphabet, I’ll take mine with double steak, double cheese, and mild salsa. Cheers.