Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. drones will soon be delivering Chipotle burritos on the campus of Virginia Tech, according to Bloomberg.
The experimental service, to begin this month and last just a few weeks, is a test by Project Wing, a unit of Alphabet Inc. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and the Blacksburg, Va., university have agreed to participate.
The Federal Aviation Administration approved the venture, the most extensive test yet in the U.S. of what many companies – including Amazon.com Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. – hope will eventually become routine drone deliveries of products. Amazon has begun a round of trials at a location in the U.K.
"It’s the first time that we’re actually out there delivering stuff to people who want that stuff,” said Dave Vos, who heads Project Wing.
Project Wing will use self-guided hybrids that can fly like a plane or hover like a helicopter. They will make deliveries from a Chipotle food truck to assess the accuracy of navigation systems and how people respond.
The devices will hover overhead and lower the Chipotle edibles with a winch.
Part of the experiment will be to see how well the packaging protects the chow and keeps it warm. Food was selected as the demonstration cargo because it’s a challenge. The company is already at work on a more sophisticated second version of the aircraft that won’t be used in the tests, Vos said.
Before widespread deliveries can occur, companies will have to convince the FAA that drones can avoid each other and safely navigate to drop spots using robotic technology. The agency on Aug. 29 instituted broad new regulations for commercial drones. While companies hope the rules will clear the way for drone deliveries, they didn’t permit such flights initially.
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