Drones delivering pizzas. What could possilby go wrong?

In today’s segment of WTFs In the News:

Domino’s Pizza is working with a company in UK testing drone prototypes for airborne pizza delivery

The agency [T + Biscuits] hired custom drone makers in the U.K. and tested a few prototypes until they found the best. “Domino’s said: ‘Right, that’s the one. Let’s make a video and get it out there,'” Hatton said.

On delivery day, two large, hot, pepperoni pizzas were boxed, stacked and stashed in a thermally insulated bag. The team hoisted the package not onto the scooter rack belonging to a pizza delivery boy but aboard the copter. Operated by a experienced drone pilot, it travelled about 4 miles in about ten minutes.

The delivery was a success, Hatton says — the two pies arrived at the other end in pristine shape. “If anything it went quicker than a pizza boy,” because it didn’t need to stop at red lights, Hatton remembers. “We were amazed at how easy it was going to be.”

The two large pizzas hit the weight limit the drone could carry. “We thought: ‘Oh perfect,'” Hatton said, but a big response so far has been: “Well, what if someone ordered more? ” To which Hatton’s response is: “I can’t believe anyone would want to order more than two large pizzas.”


Ya know, kids,  ol attila’s fav pizza place in Missoula was called Red Pies Over Montana. It was a play on the movie about some brave fire jumpers and a very nasty incident of a jump gone bad. Bad pun and perhaps always  ‘too soon’, but hey, college town. They did serve up great pizza though. The mural of flying pizzas over the mountains was a surreal work of art, or something. But it was acknowledged as surreal, not a hair brained scheme that some capitalists figured was the best thing since sliced cheese. The good old days, when logic was generally put before corporations as people thinking, I miss them.

Now, as usual, life or commerce, is imitating art, or earlier commerce. This is due to the reality that  there really aren’t many new ideas out there, just a lot of modifications and applying new tech to old ideas. There might be just a hint of a class of business people who are too isolated from reality and perhaps to able to afford mind altering substances in units not generally recommended. The rub with blindly applying new technology to old business paradigms always falls back to ‘just because you can  do a thing, it does not follow that you should do a thing’.

OK, flying pizza has a certain panache and whimsey that does appeal to the ‘Awesome!’ brain center that kicks in before the rest of the brain has had coffee and time to do what brains are supposed to do. And it may be a way to deal with traffic gridlock in large urban areas, for a time at least.

Near as I can figure, there really aren’t many, if any, regulations governing corporate use of drones to transport product, which ya know just has to appeal to the pirates, err, corporate officers.

But what could go wrong? Or more to the point, what couldn’t?

Delivery drones? If Domino’s actually went operational with flying pizzas, every other monster food corporation would have to take to the air just to compete and take away the novelty factor. Will joystick jockeys for Sky Pizza have radar to keep cheesy goodness out of the way of flying fried chicken? What happened when the Chinese take out place gets into the arms race and launches a fleet of Flying Tigers? Will drone delivery competition escalate to the point that drones are armed in order to preserve and protect their air freight? What about the likelihood of hungry students hacking into the drones and hijacking the food deliveries? And how long before cleaver birds like crows and seagulls start testing to see how many birds can land on a flying pizza to take it down? Will cities be inundated with well fed attack pigeons, landing, one at a time until they have safely landed and scarfed down the dinner someone is watching the skies over their driveway for?

Consumer protection will be a problem. One must assume that without a pizza delivery person actually showing up with the goods and getting your cash in return, the customer will be required to provide a valid credit card number when placing orders. Yes, many delivery franchises already do this, but with flying pizza, it will be required. Now, what happens when a patron is electronically charged for a pizza at time order is placed but the pizza is hijacked by angry birds or hacker neighbors with really good WiFi? Ah those pesky unintended consequences!

Airports have air traffic controllers, and still the burdens of air traffic make the occasional near miss, or actual collision inevitable. How about unregulated drones delivering the goodies? Who will keep the air ways neat, orderly, and safe? Who pays in the case of falling fast food related injuries? Who is liable if a pizza lands on my windshield and blinds me so that a car accident ensues? And what are we to do with all the car drivers texting orders to the pizza palace then racing through traffic in hopes of beating the drone? And what if the drone forgets the goddamned chili flakes and extra Parmesan packets? Huh? Whose gonna pay for all that gastronomic mayhem? Is Allstate gonna grab a slice with those good hands? How much extra will falling food insurance add on to consumers’ tabs?

Hell, let’s toss in some Stand Yer Ground fun into our hypothetical problem list. If the average American corporation can start delivering goods via drones, can the average American citizens insist on corporations not violating airspace over their homes. My guess is no.  Note: airlines fly over, albeit not as low as a pizza drone and we don’t get to swat them down. But just how low can a corporate drone go without Joe Second Amendment feeling threatened and blasting it to the higher heavens? Then there is that liability thing again. What happens when Joe homeowner stands his ground and airspace, fires off a few rounds and gravity kicks in. Bullets go up, up to a point, then somebody gets lead rain. Who gets held responsible for injury and damage from self defense against low flying food stuffs?

Oh, and what about the children, err, dieters? Just how much latitude will Weight Watchers have in preventing the temptation of forbidden fruit and junk food passing too near their windows? Remember that horrible travesty of justice known as the ‘Twinkie defense’ when a bigoted pol got off easy for spilling Harvey Milk? What sorts of horrors and docket constipation will the courts go through sorting all these conflicting interests out?

See what I’m sayin here? All sorts of possible unintended consequences. But it strikes me that corporations get to do what they want, so I doubt our legislative bodies and regulatory agencies will manage to get ahead of the curve on this one and get some rules and constraints put in place before those consequences hit the fan.

By the way, drone chopper delivery of pizzas will mean less jobs for the struggling youths who need them. But maybe it will save lives. At least it will save struggling youths the expense of subsidizing business with their own vehicles, fuel and insurance, so maybe it would actually be a financial wash for the kids who want to work and make some money. One does not make money pulling minimum wage AND using ones own resources to subsidize cheap ass franchise owners. One is old enough to know few legislators are interested in protecting the interests of workers. My daughter is still waiting to get paid for three weeks of delivering chow 20 some years ago.


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