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December 02, 2013

There's A Drone At The Door, And It's Got Domino's Pizza

While for most people, the first image that comes to mind with the word “drone” likely involves a series of Hellfire missiles slamming into Kandahar, the idea of what to do with drones that doesn't involve military action is making some businesses think twice about how to more rapidly get goods and services to potential buyers. One of these businesses is Domino's Pizza, who has reportedly developed a kind of pizza delivery drone that can fly pizzas out to houses.

Some are already calling the move “a PR stunt,” but the research is no less valid for its marketing applications. Essentially, a while back, Domino's took a remote-controlled helicopters and built a little cargo rack underneath said helicopter, which could hold one of Domino's Heatwave bags, designed to keep pizzas hot while on the way to delivery locations.

A Domino's spokesman referred to the bags as “the brainchild of our independent master franchise in the U.K,” and was developed in a coalition move by AeroSight and media firm T and Biscuits. However, there seems to be one critical point in the way of a future of drone-based delivery systems: the federal government. Turns out a similar idea was brought out last year, dubbed the TacoCopter, which could send out tacos via remote, but such a service would actually be illegal under Federal Aviation Administration rules which forbid the use of drones in commercial industry. The permanent use of the DomiCopter, meanwhile, in the UK seems equally unlikely to many observers.

But that's not stopping businesses from taking a serious look at the potential remote-controlled delivery fleet of tomorrow. Recently, Amazon's Jeff Bezos went on record with CBS' popular news show “60 Minutes,” saying that, by 2015, about the only thing stopping Amazon from doing this is the lack of FAA approval. Amazon at last report already has the necessary technology, and has even staged a few test flights to see if the system is up and running.

Indeed, Amazon would be a good fit for this; a drone's maximum carrying capacity is about five pounds, which makes up about 85 percent of the items Amazon ships. That means that Amazon might be able to offer delivery times as short as a half-hour, which in turn would take down one of the last remaining advantages of the brick and mortar store: immediacy. In turn, consider the other businesses that would benefit from such an approach: how fast would users burn through a Netflix queue if movies could be returned when done viewing, and a new DVD be out in about two hours? The same might well go for GameFly, and consider what kind of business could be done on eBay if an eBay drone could arrive at a seller's house, be loaded with the relevant item, and then sent off to the buyer's house? This is before the issue of any delivered meal—not just pizza—comes into play. There would have to be some kind of tracking mechanism in place, lest someone's order be shot down or otherwise intercepted, but the possibilities are still very much in abundance.

There's a lot to like about the thought of a drone-based delivery force, and we may well be seeing it in action sooner rather than later. The kind of impact it will have on the wider market remains to be seen, though it's likely to be profound in its own right.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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