Experts split on whether food delivery by drone will take off

Average Drone Sdn Bhd will collaborate with Futurise to deliver food by drone in Cyberjaya this month. (Bernama pic.)

PETALING JAYA: Two transport experts are divided over the future of a newly launched food delivery service that uses drones, with one foreseeing operational difficulties and the other saying it is in keeping with the times.

Rosli Azad Khan said while artificial intelligence (AI) technology may seem like a good step moving forward for the food industry, it might not be worthwhile for delivery services.

“Technology is definitely heading in that direction, possibly with usage for industrial deliveries such as sending goods for spare parts or mail-order delivery.

“But it may not work for food delivery services initially as customers may not be prepared to pay the extra charges,” said Rosli, a consultant with over 40 years’ of experience in transportation planning.

He said a comparison with the current practices of food delivery by motorcycles would provide some basis for costs and their financial implications, noting that vendors charge an additional 15% on top of menu prices for delivering food.

Rosli said depending on the routes the drones would take, delivery by air would be much faster than using motorbikes.

However, he said this was only because there was no “jam” in the air.

“In the future, there could be congestion when drone usage becomes popular and widespread.

“Unless routes are clearly defined and regulated, we could face operational difficulties, high risks of accidents and short-term losses in terms of investment,” he said.

However, Goh Bok Yen said there was no reason not to welcome delivery of food by drones. He said there were already robots in restaurants in Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh, Perak, that serve dry food.

“Using drones can be good for the food delivery service industry,” he told FMT, adding that business would “fly” because it is based on “reliable” technology.

Goh, who has 30 years of consulting experience in urban-rural transportation, foresees no problems if the quality of the food is good and if factors such as weather conditions are taken into account.

He said more food outlets should consider using drones, as with urbanisation, traffic congestion would likely prove a deterrent to the quick delivery of food.

“If you don’t start today, you will certainly need to face it the next day,” he said.

It was reported last week that Cyberjaya residents will soon be able to enjoy food delivery via drones.

The service is on a three-month trial and will only be available for those working at Futurise, a subsidiary of Cyberview, a company owned by the finance ministry.

Seven types of food including noodles, rice, burgers and kuih will be offered during the trial period. These will be delivered within a 2km radius of Futurise.

A mobile app will be made available soon for customers to order their food. Delivery time should take no more than 12 minutes, with delivery charges of RM2.50 per trip.