Project Wing Delivery Drones Flying Burritos to College Students

To comply with FAA rules, human pilots will be standing by to take control of the drones if necessary and participants involved will be shielded from the drones.

Virginia Tech students are about to get one heck of a back-to-school gift.

Project Wing, a unit of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc., will be using its delivery drones to fly burritos from Chipotle Mexican Grill to the Blacksburg, Virginia university. And the Federal Aviation Administration has approved the deal, marking another big step in the right direction for the drone delivery industry.

The drones will be delivering burritos that are actually made from a Chipotle food truck. This will help assess the accuracy of navigation systems and how people respond. The drones will hover overhead and lower the Chipotle edibles with a winch. The tests will begin this month and last a few weeks.

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

There are two big rules keeping drone delivery grounded:

  1. Drones can’t fly over crowds
  2. Drones can’t fly beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) of the operator

To get around these rules, human pilots will be standing by to take control of the drones if necessary, and participants involved in the tests will be shielded from the drones.

Vos says food was chosen as the delivery item because it’s a challenge to protect and keep warm. He also says a second-gen version of the delivery drones are already in the works, but they won’t be used for these tests.

As Bloomberg notes, this will be the most extensive drone delivery test in the US to date, but it’s certainly not the first to be approved by the FAA. That titles belongs to Flirtey, which on July 17, 2015 completed the first FAA-approved drone delivery by flying medical supplies from the Lonesome Pine Airport to the Remote Area Hospital in Wise County, Virginia. Watch the drone delivery below.

Flirtey has gone on to deliver Slurpees from 7-Eleven, in the first approved drone delivery to a home, and it recently partnered with Domino’s to deliver pizza to residents in Auckland, New Zealand.


About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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