When it comes to the advancement of technology, perhaps there is no greater motivator than the pangs of hunger: A U.S. robotics startup is delivering pizza via drone starting today in New Zealand.

On Tuesday, autonomous drone company Flirtey announced that it has partnered with Domino's New Zealand to offer pizza-by-drone. The Flirtey-Domino's drone delivery program has been through testing and successfully delivered its first pizza to a real customer via an unmanned aerial vehicle.

Firtey wants to become a premier independent drone delivery services company and the partnership with Domino's is a way to continually test technology in real-world scenarios. (Customers are promised delivery within 10 minutes.)

"We are moving closer and closer to widespread store-to-door drone delivery," says Matthew Sweeny, CEO of Flirtey, in the announcement. "To conduct these deliveries in an urban environment while delivering a hot, fresh pizza, is a ­­­validation of our delivery system that assures Flirtey is prepared for mass market deliveries around the globe."

The autonomous, unmanned aerial vehicles are now part of the fast food chain's delivery fleet and will be integrated into Domino's online ordering system in New Zealand. Once the drone reaches a customer's address, a cargo tether will lower the box of pizza from the aircraft's payload and the customers remove the pizza and the tether goes back up to the aircraft.

The same type of services will take longer to roll out stateside as drone delivery has faced huge obstacles due to U.S. federal regulations. Government rules are so restrictive that Seattle-based Amazon decided to move testing of its drone delivery program to the United Kingdom and San Francisco-based Zipline launched its drone delivery program, which air drops bags of blood via autonomous drones for emergency transfusions, in Rwanda while its await FAA-permission to do the same in the U.S.

But permits are slowly being awarded: in September, Google parent company Alphabet partnered with Chipotle and launched a drone delivery pilot program to deliver burritos on Virginia Tech's campus in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Only select customers can order pizza for drone delivery in New Zealand, but Flirtey and Domino's plan to scale its "pizza-by-drone" delivery platform to more neighborhoods and eventually to other countries.

 

Domino's Group CEO and Managing Director Don Meij says the company is "thrilled" about the successful trials and Domino's is actively expanding the drone delivery service.

"We invested in this partnership, and technology, because we believe drone delivery will be an essential component of our pizza deliveries, so even more customers can receive the freshest, hottest pizza we can offer," Meij said in a release about the first drone pizza delivery.

He believes that with 10 minute delivery times, customer demand for drone delivery will grow.

"This is the future," said Meij.

Published on: Nov 16, 2016