Uber Eats’ drone delivery service could see Big Macs hit speeds of 70 mph

Uber is following in the footsteps of Amazon, Google, and others, with the development of its own delivery drone.

The flying machine will be used by Uber Eats, a service that lets hungry folks order meals using an app on their smartphone.

Uber has recently been conducting drone delivery tests from a McDonald’s in San Diego, California. It’s currently using an Air Robot AR200 octocopter with a custom-built box for holding the food, but later this year it plans to unveil its own delivery drone that could see a Big Mac and fries reach speeds of up to 70 mph.

The company told Bloomberg it wants to have a commercial service up and running by this summer. This may be a little ambitious, however, as it’s yet to receive the necessary permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

In a bid to reassure the FAA about the safety of its proposed system, Uber said its meal-carrying drone wouldn’t fly directly to people’s homes because obstacles in and around yards could present serious challenges as it searched for a spot to land. In other words, one wrong move and it could be curtains for the combo meal, as well as the drone. More importantly, the safety of anyone nearby cannot be guaranteed in the event of a crash.

Instead, the drone would fly to a predetermined safe-landing zone where a waiting Uber courier would grab the meal and complete the delivery.

Time saver

Uber said that its drone service has the potential to reduce delivery time significantly compared to conventional methods. For example, current deliveries in urban areas take an average of 21 minutes across a distance of 1.5 miles, whereas a drone could do it in just 7 minutes, the company said. Even better, delivery charges for its drone service would not be any different to its regular rates.

Uber hopes the launch of a such a service will help set it apart from its meal-delivery competitors, among them DoorDash, GrubHub, and Postmates. The challenges presented by the highly competitive market were brought into sharp focus recently when Amazon Restaurants announced it will be ending its service later this month.

Uber executive Eric Allison told Bloomberg: “Our customers want selection, quality, and ­efficiency — all areas that improve with drone delivery.”

But the safe operation of autonomous drones is still a huge issue, especially when flying over people and buildings in urban areas. And then there’s the issue of noise pollution, too.

Amazon and Wing

Amazon unveiled its latest Prime Air drone earlier this month, which it hopes to use for delivering goods to the homes of its online shoppers. The FAA recently granted the company a one-year “special airworthiness certificate” allowing it to test the drone under certain conditions.

Wing, owned by Google parent Alphabet, is making notable progress with its drone delivery program with the recent launch of a service in a part of Canberra, Australia, and trials in Helsinki, Finland.

In April 2018, Wing revealed it had become the first company in the U.S. to receive Air Carrier Certification from the FAA, taking it a step closer to commercial drone deliveries in the U.S.

Emerging Tech

Bill Nye the Science Guy talks “solar sailing” and the new space race

If successful, The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 will be a milestone in spaceflight, the first craft to raise its orbit around the planet using just the power of sunlight.

Chevrolet’s in-car pizza ordering app is the start of an ecommerce revolution

Chevrolet has added Domino's in-car pizza delivery app to Marketplace, an ecommerce platform that equips millions of cars built since 2017. Users can order a pizza on-the-go by tapping the screen a few times, and have it delivered where…

Airbus-backed Voom could take on Uber’s on-demand flying taxi service

Airbus-backed Voom says it's planning to take its on-demand helicopter taxi to more U.S. cities this fall, a move that could put it in direct competition with Uber's app-based air taxi service launching soon in New York City.

Nissan and Renault are the latest automakers to ally themselves with Waymo

Waymo is partnering with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance to research uses for self-driving cars in France and Japan. This is the first time Waymo has considered deploying self-driving cars outside the United States.
Emerging Tech

Drone delivery services may prove too noisy for some in Australia

While delivery drones can offer benefits such as speed and efficiency, the machines still make quite a racket when they're in the sky. And the issue has now reached the inbox of the Australian government.
Emerging Tech

Hormone boosts could help astronauts from losing muscle on long space journeys

Reduced gravity conditions during space flight missions can cause extreme muscle loss. Special hormone treatments may be able to help. Here's why that's of growing importance for space travel.
Emerging Tech

Want to work in the stars? Here are six future space jobs you could hold

Ever dreamed of leaving Earth to work in the stars? Here's a list of job titles that might sound like science fiction now, but almost certainly won’t a decade or two in the future.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX is on a hiring spree for its Starlink global internet project

After a string of delays, SpaceX's Starlink project was finally launched last month. Now an analysis of data from SpaceX's job listings shows the company is on a hiring tear, advertising for more and more positions for the project.
Emerging Tech

Ready to roll: Mars 2020 rover fitted with wheels ahead of mission next year

The Mars 2020 rover is getting ready for its trip to the red planet next year. The latest step in readying the rover is installing its wheels and suspension system, which engineers at NASA have been doing this month.
Emerging Tech

You can help search for aliens with an open access release of SETI data

The Breakthrough Initiatives, a program to search for extraterrestrial intelligence, recently analyzed its first three years of radio telescope data. And all of the data collected is being made publicly available in an open data archive.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Illuminated keyboards and a retro gaming console

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

The U.K.’s biggest (and only) asteroid mining company has designs on our skies

Is the founder and CEO of the U.K.'s Asteroid Mining Corporation going to be among the first people to strike it rich in space, or is he just chasing an ambitious but doomed mirage?
Emerging Tech

Tiny galaxy has huge black hole at its center, gives clues to galactic evolution

A Hubble image shows a tiny galaxy which could hold the clue to unraveling a longstanding question about the evolution of galaxies. Despite its small size, it hosts a feature found in much larger galaxies -- a supermassive black hole.
Emerging Tech

Dark matter galaxy crashed into the Milky Way, causing the ripples in its disk

New research suggests hundreds of million of years ago, the Milky Way collided with Antlia 2, a nearby dwarf galaxy dominated by dark matter. The collision caused ripples in the disk of gas around the Milky Way which we still observe today.