Flying McDonald's Big Macs Are Coming

McDonald's Big Macs could soon be delivered by drones thanks to Uber's flight arm, Uber Elevate. The company is hoping to start deliveries to San Diego customers as soon as this summer.

At the start, only McDonald's fast food will be available to be delivered by drone, but it will expand to other restaurants in the Uber Eats network later this year, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. The initial launch area will be near San Diego State University, with more parts of the city added after the first testing period is over.

Unfortunately, the plan is not to deliver Big Macs right to your door via a drone. According to Bloomberg, which first reported on the new plans on Wednesday, Uber will set up designated "safe landing zones." Then, the drones will land on the roof of a parked Uber car with a QR code and the car will take the meal to you.

In other words, the whole operation does not save all that much on gas. Instead, Uber is hoping to save time. It takes on average 21 minutes to deliver food 1.5 miles away. Add in the Uber Elevate drone, and it will only take an average of seven minutes.

Uber also does not plan on using just any old drone you can buy at a store, Bloomberg reports. The company says it is working on a customized drone that will reach up to 70 mph. It wants customers to have a simple "Uber Air" delivery option on smartphone apps by 2023.

Kate Fraser, Uber Elevate's policy head who worked for the FAA, said it could take at least three years to put the system in use in other markets. They will use customer data to figure out where best to put the landing pads.

"We can do demand modeling to decide if a drop-off place is every six or eight blocks," she told Bloomberg.

The FAA does need to approve Uber's plans. Last year, the agency listed San Diego as one of 10 cities where companies can test commercial drone use.

"From there, our goal is to expand Uber Eats drone delivery so we can provide more options to more people at the tap of a button," Luke Fischer, head of flight operations at Uber Elevate, told the Union-Tribune. "We believe that Uber is uniquely positioned to take on this challenge as we're able to leverage the Uber Eats network of restaurant partners and delivery partners as well as the aviation experience and technology of Uber Elevate."

Fischer said the company is "working closely with the FAA" to make sure it meets all the requirements.


Photo credit: Uber