Drones to Drop Chipotle Burritos at Virginia Tech

Google parent Alphabet Inc. is planning to deliver burritos to students and staff via drones.

September 12, 2016

NEW YORK – The Wall Street Journal reports that Google parent Alphabet Inc. will test drone delivery by dropping Chipotle burritos to students and staff at Virginia Tech as part of a limited test.

Drones from Alphabet’s X research lab will fly burritos from a Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. food truck to an official several hundred feet away, who will distribute the orders to waiting customers, the news source reports.

“This month (September) we’ll run hundreds of flights and deliveries at an FAA-sanctioned test site in Virginia where testers will be able to order their lunch [prepared by Chipotle on site in a food truck] from our aircraft over a period of several days. At this stage, it’s important that a lot of our testing happens in front of people who aren’t our teammates,” X Chief Astro Teller wrote in a blog post.

“We want to learn how people feel when they’re receiving a package by air, and taking someone’s time and/or money changes things more than a little. And we want to feel the pressure of unexpected circumstances that show us how we can get better at loading and managing a fleet of planes.”

As for why the lab decided to test its drone capabilities with prepared food, Teller wrote that the reason is simple: “Our goal is to maximize learning, and food delivery poses a rich set of operating challenges that few other testing scenarios have. A lunchtime rush of burrito orders will crank up the operational pressure of multiple orders coming in during a short period of time. We’ll get to test how to package sensitive cargo and how well it endures [on] the journey (after all, everyone wants their meal hot and in the right shape). In future tests, we could add a broader range of items, like drinks, which will push us to handle more weight, keep packages carefully balanced, and manage combinations of items on a single flight.”

In August, Domino’s in New Zealand successfully tested commercial pizza delivery by drone in partnership with Flirtey, and in July 7-Eleven in the United States and Flirtey completed the first fully autonomous drone delivery to a customer's residence in Reno, Nevada.