For a select group of individuals at Virginia Tech, ordering burritos from Chipotle just got a little easier. This is all thanks to research being performed by the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership and Google X lab’s Project Wing.
According to its website, Project Wing is working on “building the next generation of automated aircraft, and working toward the day when these vehicles deliver everything from consumer goods to emergency medicine.” In a press release published by Virginia Tech, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner stated, “The commercial use of drones for package and food delivery in U.S. airspace is rapidly becoming a reality.”
In recent months, companies have been looking at drones as a way to expedite delivery. Online retailer Amazon started testing Amazon Prime Air in the UK in mid-summer, but has faced challenges from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to test the service in the US.
Project Wing’s testing will take place at an undisclosed location on Virginia Tech owned property away from the main campus, but will not be accessible to the general public. The FAA approved the testing site in 2013. Researchers are hoping to gain technical, safety and under-experience data on food delivery by unmanned aircraft. The Virginia Tech press releases state the findings will be shared with the FAA as a “stop towards safely integrating deliveries by unmanned aircraft into everyday life.”
During the testing, students and employees will order burritos from a kiosk. The food will then be prepared in a food truck several hundred meters away. Once the food is ready, it will be put into the drone which will then autonomously fly to where the drop off area is and lower the burritos using a tether. Testing is scheduled to start later this month and last for a couple weeks.
Going forward, Google sees drones as a way to help the climate, noting that in 2014, 3.1 billion gallons of fuel were wasted in traffic congestion in the U.S. Chipotle does not currently have any plans to bring back drone delivery after the testing is completed.