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Uber Eats Announces Plans for Drone-based Food Deliveries

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【Summary】Hints of the company’s interest in leveraging drones for food deliveries can be seen in its ongoing commercial test programs.

Michael Cheng    Sep 09, 2018 12:00 PM PT
Uber Eats Announces Plans for Drone-based Food Deliveries
author: Michael Cheng   

In the coming years, drones are expected to disrupt a myriad of everyday services, including third-party food deliveries.

Uber Eats, a company currently dominating the space, could be one of the first establishments to supplement food deliveries with compact quadcopters. The business confirmed its plans during the Uber Elevate Asia Pacific Expo in Tokyo, Japan, which covered the brand's vision for the future of on-demand aerial transportation.

Aerial Food Deliveries

To support the service, Uber Eats will use infrastructure from another subsidiary of the ride-hailing brand – Uber Air. Ports on buildings will house numerous fleets of drones, giving the units direct access to delivery zones without needing to launch from the ground.

Hints of the company's interest in leveraging drones for food deliveries can be seen in its ongoing commercial test programs. With approval from the US government, Uber is in the process of conducting drone-based food delivery trials in San Diego, California.

The project hosts several organizations, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US Department of Transportation and the City of San Diego. Other participants in the trials include Amazon, Google and FedEx.

"We have just announced pilots for drone delivery. It will be a magical experience to push a button a get your food delivered in 7-8 minutes, and warmed to quality," said Raj Beri, Head of Uber Eats Asia-Pacific.

In the US, expanding the establishment's food delivery service using drones could be challenging, due to the strict regulatory landscape. Existing guidelines require quadcopters to fly at or below 400 feet from the ground and must be within the line of sight of operators at all times. Furthermore, nighttime flights are not allowed.

To circumvent such restrictions, Uber could apply for waivers from the FAA (applications are subject to approval).

Uber Eats Market Dominance

With a projected run rate of $6 billion, Uber Eats is one of the largest food delivery services in the world. The company, which was launched in 2009 by Travis Kalanick and Garret Camp (Founder of StumbleUpon), can be found in over 219 cities worldwide, from Rio de Janeiro and Madrid to Singapore and Melbourne.

At the moment, the business is continuing to expand its operations, specifically in India – with an impressive monthly growth rate of 50 percent (according to data from The Indian Express). Overall, the company's net revenue for Q2 of 2018 increased by 51 percent, compared to the same quarter the year before.

"India is the fastest growing country though we have been there only for 15 months. We have recorded over 50 percent MoM growth and now cover 28 cities and 12,000 restaurants," explained Beri.

"We are creating good economic opportunities for restaurants. We work with a lot of small and medium sized restaurants that would not have had access to the kind of demand and marketing insights that we can generate for them."

For restaurants, Uber Eats' services provide a new channel for growth. The delivery platform enables food businesses to reach tech-savvy customers through the Uber Eats app.

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