What if your next pizza was delivered by aerial drone? It might sound like some pie-in-the-sky thinking, but Google parent company Alphabet has decided it wants to get a slice of that emerging market. The X experimental lab that’s working on the project has reportedly met with Domino’s Pizza, Whole Foods and other fast food outlets. A potential agreement with Starbucks fell through, after X wanted to control the user experience too much.
The “Wing Marketplace” would be an Alphabet-run online exchange where users can access these services and, for a $6 delivery fee, order a drone delivery from a wide number of retailers and restaurants.
It’s the latest in a series of companies looking to automate the delivery sector. Starship Technologies, in partnership with Just Eat, completed the world’s first takeout delivery by drone last week, but this was a ground-based robot designed to trundle across city sidewalks and streets.
X’s drone, if it comes to market, will fly deliveries. That’s a big if: X has had difficulty trying to complete a satisfactory number of flights, with the aircraft flying off elsewhere or getting lost. The company’s goal was to successfully complete 1,000 flights, but it couldn’t even manage a third of that.
The move is part of a wider push by the tech industry into physical services, and like many others, X has needed to adapt to an environment very different to that of computer code. There’s no easy errors to fix, and experiments don’t always work as expected. “The world is so unforgiving. You can’t just ask it to be more organized,” Astro Teller, head of X, said in a story published Tuesday.