Pizza Hut Israel is trying a new approach to make pie deliveries by drone a reality at last, but it means customers won’t get the thrill of accepting their orders from futuristic flying machines themselves.

Instead of flying pizzas directly to customers’ homes, the company this June plans to test sending drones to drop multiple orders at government-approved landing zones, such as designated spaces in parking lots. Delivery drivers will collect orders from these makeshift drone ports and take them on the final leg to customers.

“Drone delivery is a sexy thing to talk about, but it’s not realistic to think we’re going to see drones flying all over the sky dropping pizzas into everyone’s backyards anytime soon,” said Ido Levanon, the managing director of Dragontail Systems Ltd., the technology firm coordinating Pizza Hut’s drone trial.

In Israel, the Ministry of Transportation is only allowing Pizza Hut to test its drone technology from one restaurant and within a designated “air bubble” measuring roughly 50 square miles in the north of the country. The parameters mean a very limited number of households would be able to receive an order directly by drone, Mr. Levanon said. Flying individual orders to doorsteps also would require a lot of drones, and a lot of battery charging, he added.

“What we came up with what we feel is a much more practical solution,” Mr. Levanon said.

The drones won’t drop an order at a landing point until the system recognizes a driver is there to collect it, preventing opportunistic pizza theft, Mr. Levanon said.

Equipping Pizza Hut’s Bnei Dror outlet with drones will let it service 7,000 additional households that normally can’t order delivery from there, said Pizza Hut Israel’s president, Udi Shamai.

Dragontail plans to test-fly cargo in the assigned area six times a day until June before its consumer deliveries begin. Executives hope these flights will provide the government with proof of the technology’s safety and capabilities, while letting the team fix any snags involved with whizzing pizzas through the air, said Mr. Levanon.

One challenge is weight. The Israeli regulator only allows flights carrying just over 2.5 kilograms—roughly 5.5 pounds—of cargo, which is the equivalent of two pizzas and a bottle of Coke, said Pizza Hut’s Mr. Shamai.

“We’re hoping by June they’ll increase the weight” to 22 pounds, he said.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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