Sometimes, drones rain down bullets or missiles from the skies, sometimes they conduct surveillance, sometimes they host computer servers—and sometimes they deliver burritos.
Meet the Burrito Bomber, a fully automated Mexican food delivery system designed by Darwin Aerospace—a research lab run by Yelp engineers—and made to attack hunger from the sky.
The Burrito Bomber is just the latest in Mexican food drone delivery technology; its creators said they got the idea from the Taco Copter, a taco-delivery drone idea that went viral on the Internet earlier this year. Both Darwin Aerospace and the team behind Taco Copter are based in San Francisco.
"We have claims we're the first [food delivery drone] because we never saw anything real from taco copter," says Yoni De Beule, one of Burrito Bomber's creators. "We were talking about the idea and thought it was a waste because they didn't actually build anything."
In a video posted on YouTube, one of Darwin Aerospace's engineers sets a location for the Burrito Bomber to drop its payload and another loads a burrito into a drop canister (with a parachute, of course). Within minutes, the bomber flies to the GPS-set location and drops the burrito, where its happy recipient opens the canister and takes a bite of beef and bean goodness.
The team says they put the whole project together over the course of about two and a half weeks.
"We chose burritos because Mexican food is really popular, and the name Burrito Bomber is excellent," says John Boiles, another engineer. "Plus, burritos are kind of bomb-shaped."
Unfortunately, before the Burrito Bomber can become a commercially-viable product (perhaps for newly liberated stoners in Colorado or Washington?), the FAA will have to set regulations for commercial drones, which it is expected to do sometime in 2015. Until then the unmanned aerial Mexican food delivery wars will remain on hold.
"I met one of the founders of TacoCopter last night—it was a fun conversation, but from what I can tell, they're not seriously pursuing it as a business model," Boiles says.
But what about the commercial viability of the Burrito Bomber?
"It's probably too early to tell," he says. "For now, it's largely to do PR for Yelp. But we build stuff because we love to build stuff."
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Jason Koebler is a science and technology reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.