IPO Corner: Food From The Sky

Disney has one thing right… it is a small world, and we can prove it. This week, we’re looking into food delivery drones, and the Seattle-based pizza chain that caught our attention just happens to have recently signed with Zipline, which should ring a bell for our regular readers. The name of the pizza place is Pagliacci, and they want to zip into the future with the help of Zipline’s technology to deliver their pizzas to hungry patrons in Seattle.

The idea of food delivery drones is picking up quickly, we’re seeing movement from the top to the bottom. For instance, tiny companies like Los Angeles-based Flyby Robotics are looking to insert themselves into the space with innovations they think can spell advantage. In the case of flyby, they’ve gotten some $4 million in seed funding from firms like MaC Venture Capital to develop autonomous end-to-end drone delivery services… the whole shebang, one-stop.

Curious as to how a food delivery drone works?… us too, so we’ll learn together. Let’s say you order spring rolls and they’ll be coming by drone. Simply put, the drone will use a combination of GPS, and onboard sensors and cameras to navigate, like our modern cars. Just like our cars, it uses that same stuff to keep from bumping into things, but it has built-in safety features in case it does. While there are still hurdles to cross, like regulations and cost, those are being swallowed up quickly by innovation.

We can expect to see the expansion of partnerships like that between Walmart and Flytrex, where the result is a test program in Fayetteville, North Carolina to bring drone delivery of food and household essentials to customers. Flytrex has drones that can carry up to 6.6 pounds and fly up to 3.5 miles. There’s that last little push again… the two are hoping to expand the program to other markets if it proves successful.

The company, which began operating in the United States in 2020, was able to raise funding during the pandemic, Series C funds to be exact, to the tune of $40 million. It matters because Walmart is looking to make drones a big part of their delivery strategy… and they are leaning hard into their members program and making it as attractive as possible. It gets our gears turning… Walmart is the canary in the coal mine, no?

As far as what’s going to help smash any hurdles standing in the way of food delivery drones really taking off, there are a few things. First, we keep getting better and better at batteries… these little guys are like hummingbirds, they require tons of energy to fly. With our advancing battery technology, we’re working through that particular thorn in the side. Next, navigation and general operation, which is rapidly changing.

If you’re old enough, you tend to think of drones as needing a human operator, not any more… at least, that’s going away quickly thanks to artificial intelligence (see also: autonomous flight capabilities). After all, what good is a fleet of drones if you need one human per drone for the things… that’s more expenses, not less, which defeats the purpose. Now, with machine learning, drones can fly themselves increasingly well.

Then there’s 3d printing, which could help erase some supply chain restraints. Less materials needed means less possible points of failure in the production process. Not only that… there’s the potential for customization there. Say you need a design created to help your taco truck specifically deliver tacos to customers with separate ingredient compartments, no problem. We find this exciting, as it could change the entire food delivery landscape.

Imagine this… it’s a Saturday night, friends are over, it’s jumping off. Then, a cruel twist of fate, the margarita mix is knocked off the counter… it’s over! Not so fast. You pull out your phone, order instant delivery from Prime, and step out onto the balcony to wait. Your Amazon profile includes biometrics linked to your delivery drone profile. In ten minutes, just long enough to take in the night air, your drone identifies you and personally delivers fresh mix… just like that, party’s back on and you’re the hero.

We don’t think this is too far off from a possible reality, and let us tell you why… both Google and Amazon are working on drones for this purpose, and they sound incredibly cool. There’s a company that develops autonomous drone delivery technology for getting things like food, medicine, and other goods to people called Wing. Wing is a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, and has launched services in places including Christiansburg, Virginia and Canberra, Australia.

Over at Amazon, they are working on something called Amazon Prime Air, a drone delivery service designed to deliver packages to customers within 30 minutes of placing an order. They’ve been testing in several places, including Lockeford, California and Washington, D.C., and you can expect to hear more about it soon… frozen corndogs and beer, here we come! Come back next week, we’ll have more from the IPO space.