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
"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
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.