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.

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Comments on “Why You Can't Have A Tacocopter Drone Deliver You A Taco For Lunch Today”

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60 Comments
Dark Helmet (profile) says:

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?

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: 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”.

Paul Hobbs (profile) says:

Re: 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.

CrankyMan (profile) says:

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.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

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

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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 !!!

Anonymous Coward says:

” 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

“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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Thrudd (profile) says:

mini - cop - delivery services

Just to deal with matters of scale and logistics, once the concept takes off, everything will be subcontracted to a few licensed operators in each jurisdiction.

Another concept would be the city providing command and control while individuals provide equipment and logistics. This way there would be very little chance of collision or lost orders.

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