Pizza Delivery Drones: Future or Fantasy?

By Lisa Siddons

You’ve probably seen the videos: pizza delivery drones are out there now. But how many are actually delivering pizza for real, and how many are simply a brainchild of the company’s marketing department—a publicity stunt?

The truth is that, even for large, sophisticated companies like Amazon and Google, regular delivery by drone is likely some distance into the future.

Here are a few reasons why:

Air Safety Regulations

As Amazon says about its “Prime Air” drone service, “Putting Prime Air into service will take some time, but we will deploy when we have the regulatory support needed to realize our vision.”

In the US, FAA regulations have so far blocked the use of drones for commercial food deliveries. This may change soon, as the FAA website says, “Presently, the FAA is drafting a rule to address small UAS (less than 55 lbs.). Until that rule is promulgated, anyone wishing to operate a UAS for purposes other than hobby/recreational must obtain a grant of exemption issued under Section 333 or type and airworthiness certificate.”

High Cost

The site gives a nice summary of the payload capacity, operating range, maximum flight time, and price of a range of drones. Setting the filter on that site to a payload of 2000 grams (about 2 large pizzas), with a range of 1640 meters or more (about a mile) and a flight time (without payload) of 39 minutes or more gives one result: a drone costing $20,000. So a fleet of delivery drones would require a substantial capital outlay.


Vandalism & Theft

Drones have to fly low and must land to deliver food (food loses much of its appeal when dropped). At the prices mentioned above, drones, and the pizzas they carry, would be vulnerable to theft.

As unmanned vehicles, drones could also fall prey to rock or pellet gun toting vandals or those fearing privacy invasion, and the controlling software could be a target for hackers, creating new liability concerns.


Most drones are light, and therefore subject to even moderate winds. Payloads would be vulnerable to snow and rain unless waterproofed, and would cool quickly unless well insulated. And at night, unless in a brightly lit area, a drone would be unable to “see” to avoid obstacles.

Multi-Unit Buildings

Deliveries to apartments, college dorms, and business customers couldn’t be door to door—customers would need to pick up their order from a central area on the roof, in a courtyard, or somewhere else accessible to the drone—and would need to be there when the drone landed to take delivery.

Are pizza delivery drones practical? If regulations change, in a few very limited cases, maybe yes. The flurry of development, testing, and trials by a wide variety of companies means that there is strong pressure to move drone delivery forward and overcome obstacles. But for now, at least in North America, you’ll only see pizza drones on YouTube.

Reality vs. Fantasy

Interested in more practical ways to improve your earthbound delivery service? One of the easiest and most effective is to equip your staff with live mapping and visual dispatch capabilities. For example, you can group tickets for dispatch from a live online map, send an optimized route for the run to driver smartphones, and send customers an accurate order ETA with SpeedLine LiveMaps.

LiveMaps for Expo Follow-up



Drones. Amazon Prime Air: Google Project Wing: (expected for 2017) Drone delivery of pizzas: Dominos Domicopter Dodo Pizza (Russia): : In North America, experimental due to FAA regulations and other problems to be solved.

Posted by Lisa Siddons

Writes guides, online help, and training content for SpeedLine POS users. An avid hiker and dancer, Lisa also enjoys learning new and exciting things.

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Tags: restaurant delivery, Restaurant Technology, Pizza Industry

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