Own business: food delivery by drones

* The calculations use the average data for the World

Food delivery by drones is a business that promises to appear in a few years. About what attempts to launch it already existed, about the ever-changing legal framework, as well as about the current situation with drones in Russia and in the world and about possible prospects - read in our article.

Delivery by drones is what representatives of the largest world brands in the field of IT, retail, e-commerce, catering, postal services and delivery services puzzle over. Amazon, DHC, Google, Wallmart, Domino's Pizza, Foodpanda, 7-Eleven, Alibaba - these and many other companies see huge potential in this direction. Delivery by air is the absence of traffic jams, the ability to shorten the path from point A to point B, avoiding turns, intersections and traffic lights. This is an opportunity to deliver where there are no normal roads, fly over water and fly up to the offices of skyscrapers. Opportunity to save on courier services: his salary, transport maintenance costs and gasoline. Faster and cheaper - these are two barrels of the sweetest honey, which attract bees of all kinds and stripes.

More than others, of course, restaurants and online stores that organize food delivery to customers show a passion for drones. The latter want to eat exclusively fresh and hot pizza and not wait for the damned courier for hours on end. It would seem that attach a package of pizza to the drone, launch it into the air and send it to customers without leaving the pizzeria - and that’s all, you can fire couriers and the profitability will sharply “trample”. However, everything was not so simple.

First experiences

At first, food delivery appeared as a marketing ploy. Back in May 2012, the TacoCopter service using drones promised customers delivery of tacos. Then a pizza delivery video appeared at Domino's Pizza, and in December 2013, Amazon announced its idea to deliver goods to customers and conduct test tests. The number of staged commercials for product delivery began to grow in 2014. For example, one of the shots was made by the Indian pizzeria Francesco's Pizzeria, showing how a drone with pizza makes its way, starting a couple of meters from the stove and landing on the roof of a skyscraper.

Many consider the first commercial delivery to be Russian merit. On June 21, in Syktyvkar, a drone with pizza in a thermal box with a descent module delivered the first order to the customer. Distinguished “Dodo Pizza” and the development company CopterExpress. For the first day, six orders were received in the amount of 3270 rubles. Delivery was carried out with the help of an agent in company clothes, who accepted the order and paid while in a public place with a large concentration of Syktyvkar youth. As the company then explained, the need for an intermediary is explained by the fact that flying to unknown addresses is fraught with many problems. For example, radio interference or power lines may occur along the way, which may prevent the drone from reaching the point. It is also unclear how to transfer the goods to the customer, and not to an unauthorized person. Therefore, the format of the street show was chosen for delivery, and the delivery process was filmed by everyone and onlookers.

But soon the company had to suspend delivery. Flight copters interested in the local transport prosecutor's office. For violation of airspace, the organizers faced a fine of 200 thousand rubles, but in the end only the CEO of CopterExpress was fined as an individual. But this was not the end of the disaster due to the air carrier. Then the companies had to dispute a fine of 50 thousand rubles for the delivery of goods without a license. Although a fine was avoided, questions remained. Russian legislation was not ready for copters and was guided by the existing general laws regarding unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The terms “copter” or “drone” were not in the Air Code.

Legal framework

After the first precedents with flying drones near airports, a dilemma arose for the state (and not only ours). On the one hand, drones are a thing that is acquired mainly “for the sake of entertainment”: taking pictures, creating videos, racing and so on. But at the same time, the technical characteristics of the drones are so impressive that they can no longer be called ordinary toys. The use of drones by the military as spy equipment and the transfer of prohibited items to prisons in prisons confirm this idea. But how to distinguish which device is used for what purpose? Until now, the use of drones has required the submission of a flight plan to the government agency, obtaining permission to use airspace and other bureaucracy, which lasts more than one day. From the owners of the copters there were proposals to distinguish classes of mini-UAVs weighing from 3 to 30 kg and prescribe new rules for them.

The first to decide the issue with drones was in the United States, where in December 2015 the Internet registration on the website of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) started working. Not even a month had passed before a similar law was written in Russia, and already at the end of March 2016, the updated Air Code came into force in Russia, according to which all drones heavier than 250 (!) Grams were required to be registered with the Federal Air Transport Agency with a certificate from the FSB. However, no online portal for online registration has been created. Already in early July, the hastily drafted law was canceled, and the mandatory registration of drones weighing up to 30 kg or less was canceled. The situation temporarily returned to the period before the adoption of amendments in general, with the only difference being that law enforcement agencies became more savvy in matters of drones.

A few more months passed and another news appeared, which again upset the owners of the drones. The fact that from July 5, 2017, all drones weighing from 250 g to 30 kg will be required to have license plates. It was reported that the state plans to create a drone identification system, on the mechanism of which the state-owned enterprise ZashchitaInfoTrans is working. It is known that an active RFID tag will be used as a license plate, which will allow reading information about the drone and its owner at a distance of more than 200 meters. The drone registration procedure should be established by the Ministry of Transport. It is assumed that registration will be organized via the Internet, and the fee will be comparable to the cost of creating and delivering an RFID tag and will be about 200-300 rubles.

In other words, from July 5, drones weighing more than 250 grams must be registered. There is no information on exactly how to do this at the time of writing. In addition, it is not clear what exactly is considered a drone. The wording of an unmanned aircraft under Russian law is extremely vague and reads as follows: “An unmanned aircraft is an aircraft operated, controlled in flight by a pilot who is off-board such an aircraft (external pilot).” The comic of the situation is that in the end, drones can include not only drones, but, for example, toy helicopters and even kites.

And the current legislation (“Federal Rules for the Use of Airspace”, para. 49) states that flights of unmanned aerial vehicles occur if users of the airspace have permission from the relevant self-government body. It turns out that in the local area it is necessary to ask for the permission of the owners, and in the city or behind it - the local authorities. Even more obscure is the issue of commercial freight. After all, transportation of goods for business purposes is subject to licensing. And without a license, the violators get a fine. For individual entrepreneurs - for 100 thousand rubles, for legal entities - up to 400 thousand rubles.

What we have now

By the end of 2016, the world market for unmanned aerial vehicles grew to 7.3 billion dollars with the prospect of growth by 2020 to 9.5% billion dollars. If in 2015 more than 4 million small drones were sold, then by 2025 their sales are projected to grow to 100 million pieces. Most of all growth is driven by retail sales for private use and sales to individual entrepreneurs who use drones for video shooting. At the same time, big business began to show more actively, interested, in particular, in using drones as a means of delivering parcels and food.

In 2016, the international brand in e-commerce, Foodpanda's mobile food delivery platform, announced grandiose plans to deliver food by drones in 24 countries. The general director of the company announced the successful passing of the tests and about the upcoming launch of services for residents of Singapore. The first success in commercial deliveries was also announced by the 7-Eleven network from the United States, which delivered donuts, coffee, a chicken sandwich and soda to a Nevada buyer, an autonomous drone Flirtey, Domino's Pizza, which delivered carbonara pizza with chicken in the New Zealand town of Wangaparao, Amazon, which delivered the prefix and a pack of popcorn, the Japanese online store Rakuten, which organized a trial delivery of food to golfers and other companies. Orders are carried out using mobile applications that notify the customer of the arrival of the drone.

Unlike the first experiments, autonomous drones have recently been used. That is, such drones that do not need to be accompanied by an operator on the ground. The operator’s work is limited to downloading packages and setting a place. Autonomous drones reach the customer on their own using GPS and encoded communication channels. The order is either descended on the cord or detached when the drone lands on the ground. True, so far the delivery is mainly in a test format - the organizers agree in advance with residents living nearby who wish to take part in the experiments. Drones do not fly over long distances due to battery limitations. The Japanese drone recently set a range record by flying over 12 km with hot soup in Fukushima Prefecture.

One of the main issues on the agenda is ensuring the safety of drone flights and the creation of infrastructure that will allow delivery. Large retailers such as Amazon and Walmart are currently working on it. The latter, for example, is going to get a patent for the use of the blockchain system. Instead of just delivering the goods to the doorstep, drones will drop packages into secure containers that will be remotely connected. They will open automatically at the moment when the drones are in close proximity. In this way, it is planned to kill two birds with one stone - set the exact route and ensure the security of the package, so that it can be delivered directly to the customer. Using the blockchain, it will be possible to track many elements of the chain, including location, courier and customer authentication, temperature and its acceptable values, package contents, etc.

Is it worth it to open a drone delivery business?

If you are not in Russia, but in New Zealand, where authorities have already allowed commercial delivery of drones and are not afraid to experiment, then yes. In any other case, the answer is obvious. The point is not so much in the legal aspects, as in the large number of unresolved technical points described above. It is still not clear where the drones will fly from and where to land. If you place such platforms-boxes on the street, then this may be inconvenient for the client. There are difficulties with the delivery of the window. In addition, no one has abolished vandalism and hooliganism - devices that intercept other people's drones are already being actively implemented on the market. And if from the accidental crash of drones due to the actions of hooligans or collisions with birds, the developers offer to fight with the help of flight insurance, then what to do with bad weather is completely incomprehensible. Nobody canceled the cold either. In our country, drones that are afraid of low temperatures can not be used everywhere in the near future. Given the possible fines and the cost of the drones themselves, the business of unmanned delivery seems to be a very expensive pleasure. By the way, the delivery drones themselves are already on sale. For example, the Russian automated drone CopterExpress1 will cost the buyer 99 thousand rubles. However, it is unlikely that restaurants will be profitable to buy their own drones - it will be much easier and cheaper to outsource services to serving companies. Most likely, before deciding on the use of drones, a restaurant or cafe can only compare how much such a subscription will be cheaper than its own courier service.

What to expect in the coming years

To begin with, the gradual exit of drones from the format of an “illegitimate hobby” into the technology of making money recognized by the state. Recently, the Ministry of Industry and Trade together with Sberbank (which, incidentally, is in full swing around the idea of ​​using drones instead of collectors) has prepared a draft “Development Strategy for Electronic Commerce”. This document says that by 2025 a logistics system should appear and start working in Russia, which will allow delivering goods from online stores using drones “at a reasonable price within 3 days”. It also notes that for these purposes it is necessary to stimulate the state, develop technologies for the development of means and methods of delivery, automate and reduce production costs. By the end of 2017, it is planned to create an interdepartmental commission in Russia, which will organize a phased plan for the introduction of a UAV flight control system, and will also consider issues of their commercial application and the creation of special pilot zones.

The first steps towards an unmanned future have already been taken. In early 2017, a new profession “drone operator” was added to the register of professions. It will now be possible to take training courses and receive a certificate confirming the qualification and diploma of the “external pilot” from the Federal Air Transport Agency. Such a specialist will be able to control drones weighing up to 30 kilograms. In addition, Roscosmos is already developing a control system for the flights of small drones, the purpose of which will be to ensure a balance between “flight safety and the rapid development of the young industry.” They are planning to test the system by the end of 2017 in Bashkortostan.

In other countries, progress in this direction is also proceeding. The first to organize air traffic were the Japanese. E-commerce company Rakuten has entered into an agreement with the creator of navigation systems for drone AirMap. Companies want drones to be able to move freely through the air and not interfere with each other. And China recently recently announced its readiness to build the world's first logistics network of 150 airports for drones. JD.com, a Chinese e-commerce corporation, plans to use drones with a payload of up to 50 kg to deliver goods to remote mountainous areas in Sichuan. Air delivery is expected to save about 70% of the cost.

Mikhail Semynin

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