NEW YORK — Flying burritos are going to college.
Well, just one quad, and only for a few weeks. A Google (GOOG) experiment will test the burrito-drone delivery service at Virginia Tech this month, with the device flying dishes from a Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) food truck and into the hands of hungry students, according to Bloomberg News.
Companies including Amazon have high hopes for relying on drones as a delivery mechanism, partly as a way to reduce carbon emissions but also to speed up delivery times. The test at Virginia Tech is run by Project Wing, a unit of the Google parent company Alphabet, while the Federal Aviation Administration has given the green light and Chipotle has stepped up to fill the food orders.
“It’s the first time that we’re actually out there delivering stuff to people who want that stuff,” Dave Vos, the head of Project Wing, told Bloomberg.
The test will rely on self-navigating drones that can hover and, using a winch, lower burritos into the hands of hungry students. Vos told the publication that they picked hot food as a delivery item because of the challenge, such as keeping the burritos warm and intact.
Even though the drones are self-guided, there will be human pilots stationed close by to step in in case something happens. The drones aren’t allowed to fly over people, the company said.
Project Wing said in an email that the test site and the test isn’t open to the public, and that it will involve a “small group” of Virginia Tech students and employees. It marks Project Wing’s first test in the U.S. involving people outside the company, it said.
“We’re increasingly optimistic about the potential for unmanned aerial systems to open up entirely new approaches to the transportation of and delivery of goods — including options that are cheaper, faster, less wasteful and more environmentally sensitive than what’s possible today with ground transportation,” the company said in a statement.
Chipotle said it signed onto the project because it’s interested in various ways it can serve customers. “We were intrigued by this opportunity and thought it would be a fun way to get a sense for the potential of aerial delivery,” a spokesman wrote in an email.
The response on social media is showing tongue-in-cheek enthusiasm.
“Virginia Tech is now testing drone delivery of Chipotle burritos… I have never been so excited about the future,” one Twitter user wrote.