In recent years, Amazon and Google have been researching drone technology to make package delivery more convenient for customers. Both companies have made progress in their efforts, even with the federal government standing in their way. Yet they may have been beaten by an unexpected competitor: a pizza company.
Domino's Pizza Enterprises Limited (which franchises the Domino's brand overseas) announced Thursday that it is launching the first commercial drone delivery service in the world. The company and American-based robot manufacturer Flirtey said they plan to begin offering pizza-delivery-by-drone at select New Zealand stores later this year.
"Domino's is all about providing customers with choice and making customer's lives easier," said Don Meij, Domino's Group CEO and managing director, in a statement. "Adding innovation such as drone deliveries means customers can experience cutting-edge technology and the convenience of having their Supreme pizza delivered via air to their door. This is the future."
Customers can already track their pizza's delivery thanks to a GPS locater in the delivery car's topper. Soon, some will be able to look up and see their order fly to them.
So why New Zealand? Well, the country's laws are friendlier toward drones. While there are some rules and regulations on the books, New Zealand Transport Minister Simon Bridges said in a statement the country continues to review its laws to "have the ideal environment to trial all forms of technology." This includes opening the door to both commercial and recreational drone use. "New Zealand has the most forward-thinking aviation regulations in the world," said Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeny in a statement.
In contrast, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has enacted extensive regulations limiting drone use. Some industry leaders have said the FAA should set standards for commercial traffic but otherwise stay out of the way.
The rules are already stifling the future of drones in America. Operators must be within the line of sight of the drone they are operating, according to the FAA, which limits how far a drone can go to deliver goods. Amazon, which wants to be able to make deliveries across far distances, went to the United Kingdom to conduct its research because that country has more relaxed regulations.
Domino's devices will fly autonomously, and will only work within a 1.5-kilometer range from participating stores. The franchise said it aims to eventually increase the radius to 10 kilometers. If the New Zealand trial is successful, the service may expand into markets in Europe and Asia.