Originally posted at: (http://making.noisenewyork.com/2013/12/6-companies-using-drones-before-they-were-cool/)
In the midst of Black Friday/Cyber Monday insanity, Amazon announced a crazy idea that might've read like an April Fools' joke. Except it's not April and it wasn't a joke.
Today, drone delivery is more novelty than useful. With maximum weight-bearing capacity at a five-pound load, this makes Octocopter deliveries incredibly cost prohibitive... and useless to anyone looking to order something larger than the size of a light dumbbell.
Most strikingly, while Amazon Octocopters seem like a wild foray into the future, other companies have already embarked on drone-based delivery, from beer to food to books. Topping the list: Birthday cakes.
In July of 2013, a small bakery in Shanghai embarked on a project known as the "Incake Bakery Experiment." To "make a special moment even more memorable," Incake bakery bought three drones to deliver birthday cakes. Unfortunately, local civil aviation authorities quickly caught on to Incake's fleet and demanded suspension until the company obtained the required permits. How's that for a party pooper?
Ever had a moment where you prayed to the beer gods and asked for beer would just drop out of the sky? Well, a South African beer company made this dream come true to concertgoers at OppiKoppi music festival, delivering beers to music fans who requested a brew using a linked smartphone app. Gone are the days when you have to choose either a spot by the stage or a spot by the bar.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., a similar concept called the "Burrito Bomber" was piloted in San Francisco. The drones delivered burritos to a GPS locations and dropped off their tasty snacks. Not to be outdone, the "Taco Copter" performed the same feat, but delivered the crunchier cousin of Mexican fare.
It should be noted that not all drone delivery experiments have been to quench thirst and ease hunger pains. China's SF Express has delivered small packages to a GPS location in a program closest to Amazon PrimeAir. In Australia, students are receiving their textbook orders via drone, as long as the delivery is to an outdoor space. And finally, MIT's Senseable City Lab has created a drone tour guide named Project SkyCall, which is powered and guided by a partner app to show prospective students around campus.
While all initial drone endeavors have been impressive and entertaining, none can go live prior to laws being passed. The tentative date being thrown around now is October 2015. The biggest challenge upon launch of any delivery drone service will be the successful piloting and hazard prevention for all drones in the air; any accidents while under heavy scrutiny will likely permanently ground all further services from utilizing drones, as stated by Asian Sky Group. We've got our fingers crossed though, because we're seriously considering Burrito Bomber Friday here at noise. And that's no joke.
(Image credit: Unmanned System Technology)