Customers ordering a pie from Seattle-based Pagliacci Pizza could soon find a drone on their front porch, not a human delivery driver. The regional pizza chain signed with Zipline, a delivery drone company, to begin flying pies to customers’ doorsteps to cut costs, delivery times, and carbon emissions.
Beginning in 2024, Zipline’s 50-pound “Platform 2” drones will fly pizzas and other food items to customers in minutes, reports Seattle NPR news station KUOW. A custom 13-inch Pagliacci-branded box will allow restaurant employees to pack orders into the drone’s payload droid. As the drone makes its way to the customer’s location, it’ll offer a real-time ETA that lets the customer know when to expect their order’s arrival. At the destination, the drone will hover at approximately 300 feet while the payload droid descends on a wire and carefully deposits the customer’s order on the ground.
Zipline’s website claims its Platform 2 drones can deliver up to seven times as fast as vehicles can, completing a single 10-mile delivery in 10 minutes. That could appeal to customers whose pizzas get colder with every red light, train crossing, or traffic jam that pops up along a conventional delivery driver’s route. The drones have a maximum one-way range of 24 miles and can carry payloads up to eight pounds, which is plenty for a pizza or two, plus a side salad or gelato. They also emit only 3% of the carbon produced by delivery vehicles.
The Zipline drone’s payload droid.
All that’s left is for Zipline to obtain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), tasked with greenlighting drone companies’ operations and safety plans. Zipline is still working on its plans and hasn’t yet submitted them for approval, but even after it does, the FAA might have a few edits to make. Seattle is a busy city with a lot of air traffic and tall buildings, so the FAA may designate no-fly zones or time restrictions for safety and logistics purposes.
Zipline currently uses drones to carry vaccines, emergency medicines, and blood to medical facilities in North Carolina, Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria, and Japan, where it’s helped reduce blood unit expirations by up to 61 percent. While it continues to serve the medical field, Zipline is expanding its portfolio to include commercial fulfillment (an operation that requires different levels of FAA approval). This won’t just involve pizza deliveries; Zipline has also signed a contract with the supplement retailer GNC, which is expected to deliver products to customers via drone next year.