Project Wing drones to deliver burritos to hungry Virginia Tech students

We’re about to take another step to the glorious/troubling future where we can get delicious hot food delivered straight to us without having to say a word to another human being. Online ordering was the first necessary step in avoiding small talk, but a human still needed to deliver the food. Now Google’s sister company, Project Wing, is running an experiment designed to literally cut out the middle man: burrito delivery by drone.

Project Wing drones to deliver burritos to hungry Virginia Tech students

“It’s the first time that we’re actually out there delivering stuff to people who want that stuff,” Project Wing’s Dave Vos told Bloomberg.

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Project Wing will be working with Chipotle Mexican Grill and Virginia Tech, and although it may sound like every element of this was picked by some random algorithm (drones + Virginia Tech + burritos), there’s actually a very good reason for each part. Project Wing is trying to collect usable drone flight data, food presents a specific challenge to overcome (will it stay warm and in one piece?) and Virginia Tech is part of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, meaning a test can be freely run.chiptole_burrito_drone_delivery

The drones will be self-guided hybrids that can fly like a plane, but also hover like a helicopter. Collecting food from a Chipotle food truck, the drones will hover above the delivery point and lower their precious cargo down to hungry customers with a winch. Customers – a selection of Virginia Tech students and staff – will have to be shielded due to current regulations that don’t allow drones to fly over people. Although the deliveries will be autonomous, human pilots will be on standby to take over should the drones go haywire.

So, what’s the point, aside from feeding hungry students more efficiently? Well, the data gathered from the test will both allow Project Wing to finetune their drones and help the Federal Aviation Authority build a framework of rules to take drone deliveries mainstream. Doing so, according to Alphabet, would not only change the way we shop, but reduce carbon emissions in the process.

Still, burritos sound pretty easy to me – all the food is tightly packed. A pizza cools down a lot quicker, and soup has a tendency to slosh around. Call me when a drone can deliver the whole Just Eat menu and we’ll talk. Between mouthfuls, but we’ll talk.

Image: Christine Chau used under Creative Commons

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