Big Macs may soon be flying overhead in San Diego, carried by specially crafted drones developed by Uber’s flight arm, Uber Elevate.
The company announced its food delivery trial program more than a year ago, but now says it’s about ready for commercial launch as soon as this summer. And they’re starting in sunny San Diego, where the weather is generally mild enough for drone flight.
To start, the ride-hailing giant will be delivering McDonald’s fast food, but plans to include other Uber Eats restaurant partners later this year.
Uber won’t be sending buzzing drones directly to your door, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the news. Instead, Uber will send the drones to designated “safe landing zones” where human couriers will pick up the food and bring it to your door. The company might also land the drones on parked Uber cars (tagged with QR codes), which will carry the goods to their final destinations.
The drone delivery option could significantly cut down wait times, the company said. For a delivery 1.5 miles away, ground transportation averages 21 minutes; drones can make the trip in about seven minutes.
Uber Elevate is developing a custom drone that can fly up to 70 miles per hour, which they plan to roll out later this year.
For now, the delivery service will mirror normal Uber Eats delivery pricing, which can range up to $8.50 in San Diego.
Uber’s drone delivery in San Diego is dependent on approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, which is likely forthcoming. In 2018, the FAA designated San Diego as one of 10 locations in the U.S. where commercial drone services can be tested.
The San Diego roll out of drone food delivery will inform Uber’s next move. Three years from now, the company hopes to offer drone food deliveries in several markets.
Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is bullish on this new arm of the company.
“Uber can’t just be about cars,” Khosrowshahi said at a 2018 company conference. “It has to be about mobility. It’s my personal belief that a key to solving urban mobility is flying burgers, in any city. We need flying burgers.”
Luke Fischer, head of flight operations at Uber Elevate, told Bloomberg that he’s confident the program will revolutionize the fast food industry. He imagines a future in which drones will line up at commissary kitchens — big industrial kitchens shared by several restaurant brands — to pick up deliveries embedded with scannable QR codes.
Uber did not respond to requests for additional information about the program, including which neighborhoods the service will be available and the exact date of launch.