It’s every stoned college kid’s dream: Flying burritos delivered on demand with the push of a button. And if Chipotle and Alphabet’s Project Wing have their way, that dream could soon become a reality. The companies will start testing their burrito-delivery drones at Virginia Tech next week.
Alphabet’s Project Wing, a branch of the behemoth tech company formerly known as Google, announced the tests today, which will include autonomous drones being monitored by human operators. But the drones won’t take off from Chipotle stores with orders. Instead, test participants will order from a special kiosk on campus, prompting the drones to take off from Chipotle food trucks and ultimately lower the packages to the ground.
“Project Wing will be working with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) to conduct this test,” Project Wing spokesperson Jacquelyn Miller told me in a statement over email. “MAAP runs an FAA test site at Virginia Tech, which is operated for the purpose of gathering research data to shape regulations and operational procedures for future applications of UAS (unmanned aerial systems) and eventually helping them integrate safely into the national airspace.”
Sadly for current students at Virginia Tech, the test is closed off to the public. So you won’t be able to test it for yourself quite yet. But keep your eye out for drones buzzing campus skies next week. And why not email us a pic when they do?
As an interesting sidenote, I came upon a rather flustered sounding FAA spokesperson when I called up to ask for comment.
“This is the first I’ve heard that Chipotle is involved, so obviously you’ll have to talk with Virginia Tech about that,” the FAA spokesperson told me over the phone. The spokesperson confirmed that they had worked with Project Wing on the press release for the upcoming test and that it contained no mention of Chipotle when he looked at it. Update 3:53pm: The spokesperson followed up with me and wanted to make clear that while he wasn’t aware of Chipotle’s involvement, other FAA officials working on the project were aware of Chipotle’s involvement.
But as far as the FAA is concerned, everything is on the up and up since Project Wing has a blanket authorization at their test sites for testing drones for package delivery under 400 feet. Virginia Tech, of course, is now one of their authorized test sites.
A spokesperson for Chipotle declined to answer questions about the program and referred me to Project Wing since “they are really running the program.”
Plenty of companies are testing food and package delivery via drone around the world. But we’ll see how quickly they become a reality. I think I speak for stoned college kids everywhere when I say that the burrito drone future can’t come soon enough.