Flying burritos will soon roam the skies of the Virginia Tech campus in a landmark testing experiment at the iconic institution. The American tech giant Alphabet and the fast-food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill have partnered up to test drones as a commercial delivery method in the upcoming weeks.
The division in charge of the trials is no other than one of Alphabet’s ‘moonshot’ ventures, Project Wing. Chipotle, on the other hand, is one of the most popular restaurant chains in the U.S. and has expanded to five different countries and 2,000 locations since its foundation in 1993.
The campus of Virginia Tech will serve as one of the approved airspaces for testing, although only selected members of the academic institution will be eligible to take part in the trials.
Alphabet wants to fast-track drone regulations, but safety comes first
Drone deliveries are nothing new, but new technologies in the U.S. have a hard time with widespread adoption since everything in American soil has to be tightly regulated.
Just last week in late August, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved a new regulatory framework for commercial drone use. The new set of rules in place allows the deployment of airborne devices for everything from research to photography, and now, burrito deliveries.
The FAA gave permission to Project Wing to begin testing as soon as next week, in a trial process that will last at least a couple of weeks. Bloomberg reached out to Project Wing’s leader Dave Vos for comment, and he said that all data gathered from the experiment would be available for the FAA to develop new regulations for aerial deliveries.
“It’s the first time that we are actually delivering stuff to people who want that stuff,” Vos commented.
Not everyone will get flying burritos from Chipotle through Project Wing
Dave Vos argued that Project Wing chose burritos for the testing process because they represent more of a challenge. Drones can easily pick up standard packages like a box and deliver them to someone’s doorstep, no trouble; but with food is a different story.
Chipotle’s burritos play a fundamental role in the experiment, as the drones will test new packages that protect the delicious dish from turbulence while flying and keep it warm until delivery.
While the drones will operate semi-autonomously, human operators will still be in place in case anything goes wrong. Drones will take off from a Chipotle truck on campus to their destinations across Virginia Tech University.
The participants will be adequately protected, as regulations establish that drones cannot fly over humans. Moreover, only a select few Virginia Tech people will participate in the tests for the chance of getting the first flying burritos in the U.S.