Drone delivery lands in Los Angeles

Photo credit: HadasBandel licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The Los Angeles Jewish Journal reports that a local restaurant, Lenny’s Casita, has started using drone delivery in conjunction with a startup company, Flyby. According to the report, the restaurant prepares and packages the food, it is hoisted to the restaurant’s roof, where Flyby personnel attach it to a drone and operate the drone to its intended destination. Once there, the drone hovers at 30 feet altitude while a Flyby “pilot” calls the customer who makes visual contact with the drone, and the pilot then releases the package.

Whether the package floats down on a parachute, is lowered by a string, or has to be caught like a football isn’t quite clear from the article

But the price is right–only 99 cents for delivery! And there’s no air pollution from an internal combustion engine on a car or motorcycle, although noise pollution from the drone isn’t mentioned. Our colleague Arline Bronzaft, PhD, wrote about that problem recently.

Jason Lu, one of the two founders of Flyby, admitted the there are still kinks to be worked out with the new system. There are weight limitations, meaning that only one of six lightweight menu items can be ordered. If the unspecified weight limit is exceeded, another drone delivery is needed. And exactly how the food gets from the hovering drone down to the customer is still a work in progress.

My wife and I like restaurants where we can find meals that are too elaborate to prepare at home, or require hard to find ingredients. We rarely order takeout food, though, for delivery or takeaway (as the British say). Aside from the added cost, restaurant food is saltier, fattier, and has more calories than food prepared at home. Drone delivery gives us another reason not to order it.

I used to represent the neighborhood where Lenny’s Casita is located when I served at the lowest level of electoral politics in the City of Los Angeles, on the South Robertson Neighborhoods Council, and still have some contacts in LA’s Fifth Council District.

I’m going to ask them, as well as state and federal authorities, if they are aware of this new effort, and see what city ordinances, state laws, and FAA regulations might apply. I’m not sure drone delivery of restaurant food represents progress.

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