Technology, Turtles, Subway Systems and Flying Men — Delivery is Moving on Apace

Pie-from-the-sky is the festival food delivery dream for 2023


Pizza-Delivery-droneNew technology always takes a bit of bedding-in before it’s accepted, adopted, and widely used. ‘Twas ever thus; back in 1964, when the facsimile machine was born, it was seen by some as the Devil’s work — and by others as just another passing fad. (It was both, in a way.) A famous quote of the time — it would be a meme, in modern parlance — was: “I’ll be impressed when someone can fax me a pizza.”

Well, we still can’t do that — but delivery tech has seen some serious advances. Drones were used to drop water to Ukrainian civilians after the Kakhovka Dam was breached by …something, or someone. Let’s not get sidetracked; the important point, for the purposes of this article, is that a drone was used for a “real” task, at last, rather than showing your Instagram audience how cool your holiday spot is or checking the swimming pool action at your neighbour’s house.

Wing drones (part of Google parent Alphabet) can now reach homes and destinations in Australia, Finland and the US — and the firm is gunning for expansion this year. Marketing honcho Jonathan Bass says the number of people the firm can reach is expected “to go into the millions”.

Getting back to pizza (it’s going to be a recurring theme), there have been hopes for pie-from-the-sky deliveries for some time. And while the iconic Italian snack is vitally important, on so many levels, drones can also deliver — or drop — medical supplies at the scene of, say, a natural disaster.

Amazon debuted drone deliveries a decade ago with its Prime Air project, mocked by some at the time as nothing more than a publicity stunt. But the momentum, upwards and onwards, is building — and rest assured Amazon will be all over this one.

It won’t be alone there; in 2023, there are several active players in the space: Drone Express, DroneUp, Matternet and Manna are the first names to come up, but there are more, covering US deliveries to California, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, Georgia, Utah, North Carolina and (even) Arkansas.

International operations and regulations are moving on apace in Europe and Australia. A company called Zipline has been delivering medical products in Rwanda and Ghana. DoorDash, Walmart and Kroger are said to be getting in on the action. No mention of the UK, you may notice: Britain is slow to come to the airborne party — but it is coming. The UK government has unveiled plans for a 164-mile “automated superhighway” by mid-2024. The Skyway project will connect airspace between Cambridge, Oxford, Rugby, Milton Keynes and Coventry.

There are plans for similar projects planned to deliver mail to the Isles of Scilly and medical supplies in Scotland. But as Britain dithers over drones… yep, the technology has moved on again.

June, mid-summer, Glastonbury: need we say more? The biggest (once baddest, but now neutered, glammed-up and entirely commercial) festival has plenty of food stalls — but this year, the must-have is pizza delivery by air. But forget drones; they have nothing to do with it.

Bring on the flying delivery guy — complete with a jet pack.

Apparently inspired by the song Rocket Man, by ageing Glasto headliner Elton John, the local Domino’s decided to go for broke in a headline-grabbing “rapid delivery trial”. Where do aviation rules and regulations stand on the issue of aerial food deliveries? It’s not clear from news reports whether even Domino’s knows — but most of their tech experts seems to have been focused on something other than the jet pack.

A custom-made suit was created from Domino’s by Gravity Industries — said to cost “hundreds of thousands of pounds” — and the main design criteria seem to revolve around making sure the pizza is still hot when it’s delivered. The third rule of thermodynamics, perhaps, and certainly up there in our personal pizza regs at CFI.

And just in case we were solely obsessed with aerial tricks, you’re wrong. To prove it, one more tale of delivery derring-do, this time from the States.

Remember the Ninja Turtles? I thought you had to be there to get it, but apparently not so: young Americans still dote on Donatello, Leonardo and the rest of the subterranean mutants. To capitalise on that, Pizza Hut is getting the turtles’ fave snack (pizza, duh) delivered underground…

No, not in the sewer systems frequented by the hard-shelled heroes: Pizza Hut is serving up its signature dish to customers in the subways of New York City. Deliveries, for a limited time, are timed to coincide with the release of the upcoming film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem due out in August. Texts for a meal would be delivered to designated pizza drop zones “within minutes”, the company promises.

So there you go: underground, overhead, at home, in a muddy field — pizza gonna get you.


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