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Why You Can't Have A Tacocopter Drone Deliver You A Taco For Lunch Today

from the the-government....-and-a-bunch-of-other-factors dept

We've talked a bit about some more intriguing uses of drone technology lately, including personal individual surveillance as well as for building floating ad hoc networks. But I don't think I've ever seen as much attention given to the potential disruptive nature of drone technology as the story that's been bouncing around the internet the past few days concerning the miraculous concept of the TacoCopter.

Yes, the TacoCopter, one of those ideas that once you hear about it, it sticks with you. It's pretty straightforward. You order (and pay for) a taco via a smartphone app, indicating your location, and a short while later, a drone hums into view and drops a taco at your feet. The folks behind it are targeting San Francisco first (of course), with an expansion plan that includes "TacoLobster" "LobsterCopter" on the east coast.
While some have insisted it's a joke, the folks behind it insist that it's real... except for the fact that it isn't really real. It's not a joke, it's just not quite feasible. Or legal. The legal part is the the one that's getting the most attention. As the founders explained to Jason Gilbert at the Huffington Post, you can't actually use drones for commercial purposes these days:
"Current U.S. FAA regulations prevent ... using UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, like drones] for commercial purposes at the moment," Simpson said over Gchat. "Honestly I think it's not totally unreasonable to regulate something as potentially dangerous as having flying robots slinging tacos over people's heads ... [O]n the other hand, it's a little bit ironic that that's the case in a country where you can be killed by drone with no judicial review."
Of course, that's not the only problem. There's also... well, everything else. Which turns out to be a pretty long list.
Simpson told HuffPost that because of the FAA's regulations -- as well as other minor problems, like navigating the treacherous terrain of an urban environment, keeping the food warm, finding a city map precise enough to avoid crashes 100 percent of the time, avoiding birds, balconies and telephone wires, delivering food to people indoors, delivering food to the right person, dealing with greedy humans who would just steal the Tacocopter as soon as it got to them, etc.
Not surprisingly, the team behind it isn't actively working on the project right now, though they still seem to insist they're serious about doing it for real at some point in the future.

That said, it's not hard to realize that most of these problems can and will be solved at some point in the future, and such a commercial use of drones could actually create quite disruptive business models in a lot of sectors. Obviously, just delivering tacos isn't that big of a deal, but once you begin to realize that these things can deliver almost anything (within reasonable weight limits) then it starts to open up a huge world of interesting possibilities. For that reason, it wouldn't surprise me to see that the regulations that now limit such uses of drone technology will almost certainly remain in effect much longer than the technological limitations remain a hurdle. Those who are disrupted by such uses will continue to insist that such things are dangerous, rather than learning to adapt and embrace the technology.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 10:52am

    On the other hand...

    Imagine the fun of completely confusing potential terrorist groups and/or innocent funeral parties, as they go dashing for cover hearing the dulcet whine of attack drones...only to be peppered with chili-cheese burritos and serrated packages of taco sauce rather than hellfire missiles.

    For added fun, consider what ultimately be more deadly, a semi-accurate attack of explosives or an almost-assuredly as explosive post-Taco Bell bathroom experience?

     

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  2.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 10:54am

    I want a tacocopter...

    But it must deliver to me pizzas!

    For pizzas are superior to tacos!

    3 guesses where that last line is from.

     

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  3.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 10:58am

    Kneeds...

    It needn't be tacos--it could be delivering a plain brown package full of illicit substances to pseudo-anonymous person(s).

     

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  4.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 11:01am

    Re: Kneeds...

    Actually, if Rule #34 holds, this entire concept will be somehow sued out of obvlivion by the company holding a prior patent, entitled "Pink Taco-Copter"....

     

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  5.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 11:03am

    Re: Kneeds...

    Thinking...

    While we're thinking on the subject:
    It's entirely conceivable such systems could completely revolutionize the package delivery industry in general.

    Imagine the UPS truck drives by--only slowing slightly--while a handful of drones launch with the appropriate packages to be dropped off before they rejoin the same truck.

    Or slightly larger drones could handle much of the daily/weekly deliveries which many businesses require--fresh donuts, restaurant ingredients, etc.

     

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  6.  
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    Unknown, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 11:07am

    Re: Kneeds...

    What, exactly, is anonymous about receiving said box if it is delivered via helicopter? I'd imagine almost any other delivery method would be more discrete for the receiver.

     

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  7.  
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    John Doe, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 11:11am

    The end is near

    I hope those drones obey the 3 laws.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 11:12am

    One big problem that will kill this thing's commercial values, the cost of fuel.

    It costs a bit under $1,000 per pound to lift into space. While this won't lift stuff in space, the same problem applies, the heavier the taco-copter the more fuel it consumes.

    Sure it may cost pennies per pound to lift for this short trip at a low height (I don't know the exact cost, or the weight of the taco-copter), but the taco-copter is going to be like 99% of your weight you're lifting, which is going raise the fuel costs a lot for just delivering a few tacos.

    In order for such a thing to be practical you'd need an infinite and nearly free source of energy, like wind, or solar, to power the taco-copter. And right now solar panels still cost more money to build and install then they save you long term on electric bills (though with tax subsidies they do pay for themselves), and I think wind may have similar issues at the moment.

     

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  9.  
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    monkyyy, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 11:16am

    red tape is FUN FUN FUN

     

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  10.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 11:18am

    Re:

    The other big problem is that they're trying to deliver fucking tacos to stationary fucking people by fucking un-manned helicopters.

    Think for just a moment about how often you're somewhere outside and plan on being in that one spot long enough to have something airmailed to you, and how often the predominant thought in your head is, "Holy shit, I need a goddamn heaven-delivered taco right fucking now".

     

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  11.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 11:38am

    Never in the history of technology, has a more important issue been presented. A Nobel Peace Prize should be given to the individual that figures out how to bring me Meximelts, soft tacos, and Mexican Pizza from Taco Bell via drones.
    Cure cancer? Pfft.
    Cure Diabetes? Meh

    Yo quiero Taco Bell.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8sZ1DWsAHE

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 11:39am

    Re: Re:

    Or as Samuel L Jackson would say, "...... ........ tacos on a plane!"

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 11:39am

    it's not hard to realize that most of these problems can and will be solved at some point in the future


    "dealing with greedy humans who would just steal the Tacocopter as soon as it got to them, etc."

    Sorry, I think that last one, which is by far would be the most disruptive part of the delivery chain, will ever be resolved any time in our lives.

     

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  14.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 11:44am

    Re:

    And stealing them would be the least of their worries. Most would probably suggest just having the tacocopters hover high enough to be out of reach, which basically means you cannot use these in the hood or deep south, where everyone is strapped with miniature anti-aircraft weaponry....

     

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  15.  
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    photomatt (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 11:45am

    Re: Re:

    and how often the predominant thought in your head is, "Holy shit, I need a goddamn heaven-delivered taco right fucking now".


    More often then you want to know.

     

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  16.  
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    A Guy (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 11:50am

    The real question is "what is the cost of fuel for a delivery vehicle vs. the cost for a small drone?"

    For a fast food delivery service, it may be worth the cost.

    I want a tacopter.

     

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  17.  
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    johnjac (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 11:59am

    Finally a tech Hollywood can embraces

    I can't way until Netflix and Spotify put out of business by drones that can deliver DRM laden discs and shoot pirates in their home.

     

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  18.  
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    Pickle Monger (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 12:00pm

    Think of the children!

    But... but... the children! Think of the children! How will they learn about life if theu won't be able to deliver pizzas anymore???

     

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  19.  
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    hegemon13, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Re:

    Okay, that was funny. But it's really not an obstacle. Instead of giving your location, you just have an app that feeds your GPS location to the drone. Once it gets close, it alerts you to tell you to stand still while it "closes in."

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 12:17pm

    Re: Re: Kneeds...

    In the current environment sure. But when Pizza Hut and Papa John's standardize this as their delivery method (and add paintball launchers to try and take out "enemy" drones) receiving ilicit substances in this manner would be pretty easy.

    I'm sure there are drug dealers who operate in this manner, they order a pizza when jim bob is working late and 50% chance he delivers the pizza, even better if it's right before close and he gets requested (I used to be a Papa John's manager). Nothing at all suspicious about getting delivered pizzas and the driver doing a quick drug for money exchange while there.

     

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  21.  
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    lavi d (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 12:25pm

    Lemonade

    [O]n the other hand, it's a little bit ironic that that's the case in a country where you can be killed by drone with no judicial review.

    So why not tweak the business model a bit and offer a murder-for-hire drone service?

    This just means I'm going to revive my taco delivery idea, Tacobruchet™

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 12:32pm

    " it's not hard to realize that most of these problems can and will be solved at some point in the future"

    Oh god. Did you actually think the whole idea through Mike? Imagine every taco stand (and for that matter every other store in the universe) with a fleet of drones hovering over our heads all the time to deliver stuff to us. Are you kidding me? There are so many issues here that it is beyond understanding. It's not likely to get resolved, because whatever minor issues need resolving to make it functional pale when compared to the practical.

    Your vision of the future must be clouded by whatever Marcus has been doing back there.

     

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  23.  
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    Memphis Slim.ru, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 12:46pm

    You have to read Vernor Vinge's "Rainbow's End". In this novel UPS uses ballistic launchers and GPS to send packages to people wherever they are.

     

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  24.  
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    Memphis Slim.ru, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 12:46pm

    You have to read Vernor Vinge's "Rainbow's End". In this novel UPS uses ballistic launchers and GPS to send packages to people wherever they are.

     

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  25.  
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    Jack, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 12:50pm

    Re: Re:

    You are a very angry, angry little man!

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 12:58pm

    Re: Finally a tech Hollywood can embraces

    I was going to write that exact comment but the C&D popped up before I finished thinking it.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 1:09pm

    While not as cool as a Tacocopter, I think it's far more likely that robot cars will deliver stuff to us in the near future. Google cars can already drive on their own, and cars on roads solve many of the technological problems of the Tacocopter. It's simple enough for the smartphone app to also be the key to the car that will open the delivery door so you can get your stuff out without worry about it being hijacked.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 1:34pm

    And with a few modifications...

    ...the Tacocopter becomes the Grenadecopter, just the sort of thing I'd like to see in the hands of warring gangs in urban environments.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 1:48pm

    Stand Your Ground

    True, but no doubt (at least in the deep South) the laws would soon allow the drone to legally return fire in those cases.

     

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  30.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 2:08pm

    Re: Stand Your Ground

    Lord help us all if one of these tacocopters is wearing a hoodie....

     

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  31.  
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    Robert Doyle (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 2:22pm

    Re: Re:

    Why does it only let me click funny once...

     

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  32.  
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    slick8086, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 2:31pm

    um I think you misunderstood.

    ...with an expansion plan that includes "TacoLobster" on the east coast.


    Some how I think getting lobsters to deliver tacos is more impressive than copter-delivered-tacos. Unfortunately it is actually "LobsterCopter"and not "TacoLobster"

     

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  33.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 2:58pm

    Re: um I think you misunderstood.

    Some how I think getting lobsters to deliver tacos is more impressive than copter-delivered-tacos. Unfortunately it is actually "LobsterCopter"and not "TacoLobster"

    Dah! Taco on the brain. Fixed.

     

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  34.  
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    Paul Hobbs (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 3:15pm

    Re:

    Plus, you can bet your arse that if someone was able to patent a method for thermally refreshing bread (Patent number 6080436 = fucking toast), someone else has patented the process of delivering food using unmanned devices (flying or otherwise).

    I'll bet my left nut that the second after the first TacoCopter delivers its first taco, Intellectual Ventures lawyers will be all over this like a rash.

     

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  35.  
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    Killercool (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 3:27pm

    Re: Re: Stand Your Ground

    I felt threatened. I'm pretty sure it flashed a gang sign at me, too.

    No, just because Florida is famous for being the retirement destination of choice doesn't mean laws allowing violent enforcement of "Get off my lawn" reinforces any stereotypes.

    What are you, ageist?

     

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  36.  
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    Killercool (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 3:33pm

    Re:

    ???
    Why is it unfeasible? Have you been ignoring all technological advances... Oh. Of course you have. I forgot. You're one of our regular semi-Luddite trolls. You dislike any and all technologies that could actually change things.

     

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  37.  
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    DC, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 3:34pm

    Re:

    Yes it is more complicated than the post suggests, but all you can do is fling poo? (emphasized by your last sentence).

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 3:44pm

    "That said, it's not hard to realize that most of these problems can and will be solved at some point in the future"

    they have allready been solved IN THE PAST, all you 'problems' you have indicated have been solved for UAV's years and years ago..

    Im sure you ment to say "copied" the solutions that allready exist.

     

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  39.  
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    Eric Roberts (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 3:56pm

    Re: Re:

    It can happen...

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 3:57pm

    Re:

    if (and it will) the UAV has two way communication with the base and highly skilled and well paid controller/operator, they would have accurate GPS location data, live video, and you also have the name and address of the person who ordered 'the strike', you have their bank account details, and so on.

    Do you think it would be that hard to find and catch the person who shot it down? Even if he was wearing a Hoodie.

    Imagine a "flashmob" of 5000 people all ordering products by copter at one location at one time, all to watch the biggest mid air crash of all time !!!

    "Delivery Drone massacre"

    Lets do it at JFK !!!

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 4:06pm

    Re: Re: um I think you misunderstood.

    Dah! Taco on the brain

    I allways wonder what it was, thanks that explains much!

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 4:22pm

    Re: Re: um I think you misunderstood.

    Man, that is just trollbait.

    You should watch your choice of words, otherwise the trolls will trollbate all over your website, making it messier to read.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    B Pickel (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 4:43pm

    Bring on the Tacocopter

    This would be a most welcomed delivery method, as i can now get a taco while stuck in traffic

     

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  44.  
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    Jeff (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 5:33pm

    Re: Re:

    If ever there was a case for "sad but true" button... :-)

     

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  45.  
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    WhaTDuhBicthwasthat, Mar 27th, 2012 @ 9:14pm

    CinnabonCopters Are HOLY SHit

    Cinnabons are awesome and are the most easiest transportable food ever end obama's reign, he destroyed the 2nd Amendment and now UAV commerse is bad? RES PUBLICA MITCHELLE ROMNEY!!!

     

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  46.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 27th, 2012 @ 11:39pm

    Yet another article worth bookmarking for the comments alone, this entire page has been filled with awesome.

     

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  47.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Mar 28th, 2012 @ 12:22am

    "[O]n the other hand, it's a little bit ironic that that's the case in a country where you can be killed by drone with no judicial review."

    That would be the drones working for the Department of Homeland Security.

    Oh, he meant robots. My bad.

     

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  48.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 28th, 2012 @ 5:58am

    Re: Re: Stand Your Ground

    What did you smoke man? I've marked 3 comments funny from you on the same article!

     

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  49.  
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    Skyhook, Mar 28th, 2012 @ 6:24am

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Mar 27th, 2012 @ 11:12am

    Those copters are ELECTRIC !
    I find your. Rambling "Greenie" thoughts as unproductive as the delapidated wind turbines of that movement.

     

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  50.  
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    Niall (profile), Mar 28th, 2012 @ 7:11am

    Re: Lemonade

    Isn't that already running in Afghanistan?

     

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  51.  
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    Dave, Mar 28th, 2012 @ 10:28am

    Re:

    Would they instead be awarded a "Nobel Pizza Prize"?
    I know -- but could not resist

     

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  52.  
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    CrankyMan (profile), Mar 28th, 2012 @ 10:58am

    Re: Cost of fuel

    That's easy to solve. Tacos and other Mexican food is a nearly endless source of farts, which contain a great supply of methane. The drone could deliver a taco and a small yet expandable fart collection device. (Don't laugh, some places use such devices to collect methane from cows who wear a collection tank on their back.)

    The Taco delivery drone would be told to make a fueling stop at the customer's uhh... "rear entrance" where it would issue a credit for the fuel to be applied against future orders.

    There would also be an incentive for the more flatulently gifted to collect their emissions and get highly discounted tacos.

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2012 @ 10:21am

    "... you can't actually use drones for commercial purposes these days:" Obviously, Mike is forgetting all of the PR drones he has to deal with.

     

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  54.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 8:55am

    OK, so it is illegal outside...

    How about inside a privately owned and operated establishment? We all seen the guy at the toy kiosk in the mall—launching that tiny little r/c quad-coptor up to the food court on the third floor... why not open a restaurant that delivers food by miniature helicopter drones? It would totally eliminate the chance that your food (or your bill) went to the wrong table.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
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    LemaLife, Apr 4th, 2012 @ 7:18pm

    We have a real Tacocopter in UberTaco

    Tacocopter was cool and all but never got off the ground. We created UberTaco to pick up where they left off. We saved a hungry man in Tahoe from dying of hunger just this past weekend. Video proof is here:
    http://vimeo.com/39653909

     

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  56.  
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    teachermackey, Jun 26th, 2012 @ 9:43am

    Don't worry

    Don't worry, some other civilized country will start doing this, and will become a world power shortly there after.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
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    Tuomas Santakallio, Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 4:54am

    Fantastic!

    Legal in most parts of Europe. USA will be left to smokepipe-industry age, because of it's bureaucracy. Imagine, if the FRENCH do this first? :-D Brilliant!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  58.  
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    Cicerojones, Apr 20th, 2013 @ 10:48am

    Class G Airspace

    I am an Air Traffic Controller. I think this is such a cool idea. As long as the drones stayed out of controlled airspace I don't see how this could be illegal. Class G Airspace is that airspace further than 5 miles from most airports and below 700 feet above the ground. The FAA has no jurisdiction there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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