Flying Off the Shelves: iFood Cleared for Delivery Drone Take-Off

It’s the first time that a local agency greenlights the daily use of drones for food delivery in the region

iFood's delivery drone. Photo: iFood/Courtesy
January 25, 2022 | 04:17 PM

“We’re soaring, flying, there is not a star in heaven that we can’t reach”. High School Musical said that, but it could easily be iFood lip-synching as well. Brazil’s delivery behemoth now has drones in the air, besides motorbikes, and bikes that dart through traffic in Brazil’s crowded streets. All that with Brazil’s aviation authority (ANAC) endorsement, Brazil’s equivalent of the F.A.A.

It’s the first time that an agency greenlights the daily commercial use of drones for food delivery in the region, while in China, companies like Meituan already do that. Yet, it’s not like drones will be landing on your doorstep. iFood said that drones mission is to reduce travel time on the first mile, from the restaurant to a pick-up point. From there, couriers use traditional modes (motorbikes, bikes, or scooters) to bring the meal to the customers.

The phase-one project to bring iFood to the air started two years ago, carried out through the first pilots designed to test the feasibility of drone-assisted delivery in different regions and contexts, with certification by CAVE (Certificate of Authorization for Experimental Flight). “It is a first-of-its-kind achievement for Brazil and a historic milestone in aviation, but also in the development of human society. It is the beginning of a change that brings new ways to speed up deliveries by using transportation by air as part of a food-delivery route over congested areas,” said Fernando Martins, head of logistics and innovation at iFood, in a press statement.

The newly approved drones will be able to carry out deliveries with loads of up to 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds) within a radius of 3 kilometers (1.8 miles), including in urban environments, maintaining safety margins that were established during the pilot phase of the transport-by-air innovation project. Orders must have the weight and dimensions to be transported by the drone. The drone delivery has no additional cost for the user or the restaurant.


So far, trials were carried out in the cities of Campinas and Aracaju with McDonald’s and Madero (a burger brand), and the idea is to expand to other establishments -- as the droneport is close to the mall. iFood added that there is no schedule for new cities yet, but with the authorization of ANAC this will be analyzed by the company.

iFood has surpassed the 60 million monthly orders in Brazil and serves more than 270,000 restaurants in more than 1,200 cities. It’s not easy for rivals, as the delivery business in Brazil spends a lot of money. Uber Eats recently said that it is no longer going to operate its restaurant delivery service in Brazil.

Meanwhile, in September 2021, iFood’s shareholder Prosus said that iFood’s core delivery business is close to breakeven.

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