Uber says it will deliver McDonald's meals via drones in San Diego as soon as this year
- Uber plans to launch drone deliveries of McDonald's meals in San Diego this year, the company said Wednesday.
- The aircraft will be able to land on Uber's latest self-driving cars for a delivery "partner" to make the final hand off.
- See everything Uber announced at its Elevate conference this week here.
WASHINGTON, DC - Uber plans to launch drone deliveries of McDonald's meals via drones in San Diego, the ride-hailing company's Uber Eats division announced Wednesday.
Eventually, an Uber-designed aircraft specifically for food deliveries could land on an Uber vehicle for a "partner" to make the final delivery to a customer. That would negate many of the problems other attempts at home drone delivery have encountered.
"There have been many attempts at drone delivery: landing on mailboxes and in backyards with parachutes attached," Luke Fischer, Uber Elevate's head of flight operations, said on stage at the company's conference. "But we run into the same problems with those. It simply doesn't work in dense urban environments where people don't have backyards, don't have drone capable mailboxes and don't have backyards for parachutes."
Of course, there are still plenty of regulatory questions surrounding drone operations for Uber and any other companies looking to fly drones outside an operators line or sight or over people's heads. So far, the company has completed one test flight in conjunction with San Diego State University that involved a beyond-line-of-sight delivery.
The theme of nearly every panel at Uber's elevate conference this week has been two-fold: safety and regulatory help. Speaking in separate keynotes, acting FAA administrator Daniel Elwell and Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao both said the current administration is committed to empowering companies like Uber to find safe ways to innovate and launch new products, something many of the current laws do not allow for.
"The FAA is working hard to create a pathway that will enable this kind of technology," Fischer of Uber Elevate said. "So despite the potential customer experience improvements from facilitating your delivery, we would not be pursuing this without the organization structure of the FAA's UAS program."
Uber's McDonald's deliveries wil begin later this year, the company said in a press release, with two other local fine-dining restaurants also joining the program.
"Our goal is to expand Uber Eats drone delivery so we can provide more options to more people at the tap of a button," Fischer continued. "We believe that Uber is uniquely positioned to take on this challenge as we're able to leverage the Uber Eats network of restaurant partners and delivery partners as well as the aviation experience and technology of Uber Elevate."
More from Uber's Elevate conference:
- Uber's first air-travel market outside of the United States will be Melbourne, Australia
- See inside Uber's first passenger drone, which could eventually fly passengers at 150 mph while burning no fossil fuels
- Uber's first passenger drone is a helicopter-plane hybrid that can carry passengers across cities at 150 mph