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Uber’s gone far beyond just connecting riders and drivers to get from point A to B. It now operates a fleet of dock-less scooters and bikes and is developing its own self-driving car and and flying taxis. One of the fastest-growing parts of its business is food delivery via Uber Eats, and today it’s announcing a potentially game-changing new aspect to this business by commencing tests for delivery via drone.

This summer, Uber will start testing the commercial application of food delivery by drone in San Diego, California. Uber’s already conducted limited trials delivering McDonald’s to customers.

According to Bloomberg, which had access to the first tests in May, the drone has special compartments to keep the food warm and intact while in-flight. (Uber Eats reported a revenue of $1.5 billion in 2018, up almost 150% from 2017. Overall, Uber had a net loss of $891 million in the second quarter of 2018, the latest available income data. The company doesn’t break out profit or loss for its individual units like Uber Eats.)

Image courtesy of Uber.
Image courtesy of Uber.

Uber says the new tests will expand the restaurants that will allow drone delivery, including local San Diego spots like Juniper and Ivy.

Still, drone delivery is far off from widespread use, and these tests won’t have drones landing in customers’ backyards. Restaurants will load meals into drones and Uber will alert an Uber Eats delivery person to meet the drone at a designated dropoff location. That human will then hand-deliver the food to the customer.

Uber still needs to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for tests to go ahead (although that appears likely and the FAA chose San Diego as testing ground for these trials last year). It also needs to continue to develop its airspace-management system to ensure its fleet of drones are avoiding commercial aircraft and each other so burgers and milkshakes aren’t raining from the sky, or worse accidents happen.

It’s currently using a non-proprietary drone, but it says it has plans to unveil its own drone later this year that’s specifically designed for Uber Eats deliveries.

Uber says that it believes drone food delivery will become more prevalent in about three years. Amazon just revealed its own drone that will begin delivering packages to customers.

Coronado Island from above shot near dusk as a storm cleared,
Renderings of Uber’s planned Uber Eats delivery drone. Image courtesy of Uber.

Reports indicates that Uber Eats does not code as a dining purchase, but under travel, so you’ll want to use a credit card that earns bonus points on travel like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Citi Premier Card when making purchases through the service.

The Platinum Card® from American Express comes with up to $200 in Uber credits every year, and those credits can actually be used for Uber Eats orders. Who would have thought a credit card benefit would include food delivered via drone?

Featured image courtesy of Uber. 

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