Some of the world's biggest companies—Amazon, Google—are itching to make commercial deliveries by drone, but a pizza restaurant may beat them to it.
On Thursday, Domino's Pizza Enterprises—an international franchiser of the Domino's Pizza brand—conducted a demonstration of pizza delivery by drone in Auckland, New Zealand as it stated its intent to be the world's first company to launch regular drone delivery.
“We’ve always said that it doesn’t make sense to have a 2-tonne machine delivering a 2-kilogram order," Domino’s Group CEO and managing director Don Meij said in a statement. The use of drones, "is the next stage of the company’s expansion into the artificial intelligence space and gives us the ability to learn and adopt new technologies in the business.”
Domino's is partnering with drone delivery company Flirtey for this effort. The demonstration on Thursday was a final step in Flirtey's approval process, Domino's says. It expects trial store-to-door drone deliveries from select Domino's New Zealand locations to get underway later this year, assuming Flirtey gets the regulatory okay to make commercial drop-offs.
Domino's says it chose to launch this capability in New Zealand because the country's current regulations allow businesses to tap unmanned aircraft for commercial uses. But the specifics of New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority drone rules—namely the requirement that all drones must remain in sight at all times—could still prove tricky.
"Both Domino’s and Flirtey are learning what is possible with the drone delivery for our products, but this isn’t a pie in the sky idea. It’s about working with the regulators and Flirtey to make this a reality for our customers,” Meij said.
7-Eleven has also partnered with Flirtey for its trial drone deliveries. Last month the convenience store chain demonstrated its own drone delivery—an order of coffee, donuts, a chicken sandwich, and, of course, a Slurpee—in Reno, Nev. The companies called the test the first time a drone had legally delivered a package to a U.S. resident who placed an order from a retailer. In the U.S., there are strict drone regulations, which have pushed companies to conduct testing overseas. The Federal Aviation Administration has released new commercial drone rules that take effect this month, but they don't allow for flying drones at night or outside the line of sight of their operators—restrictions that could make drone deliveries impractical.
In a statement, Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeny said New Zealand "has the most forward-thinking aviation regulations in the world," adding that Thursday's demonstration "herald[ed] a new frontier of on-demand delivery for customers across New Zealand and around the globe."
Drone delivery will let Domino's reach more rural customers and to reach urban customers in a "much more efficient time," Meij said.
Domino's investment in technology is one reason for its recent success. The stock of its U.S. brand, Domino's Pizza Inc., hit an all-time high earlier this week, reaching $151.10. In the past few years, it's rolled out innovative ordering options, like allowing customers to place orders via emoji and Apple watches. A report in March said that half of the company's U.S. orders are now digital.