Uber Technologies Inc. could launch its food-delivery drones as soon as 2021, according to The Wall Street Journal, a move that would further diversify the Company from its core ride-hailing business.
The San Francisco based Company is seeking an Operations Executive who can help make delivery drones functional as soon as next year and commercially operational in multiple markets by 2021, according to a job posting that appeared on Uber’s website. App-reliant Uber has limited experience developing hardware beyond its electric scooters and its equipment for self-driving vehicles, a currently unproven technology.
The drone executive will “enable safe, legal, efficient and scalable flight operations,” according to the job listing, which refers to UberExpress, an internal name used for the drone delivery operation within its UberEats prepared-food delivery unit.
Uber is crafting a narrative around its ambitions beyond ride-hailing, as it eyes a 2019 IPO that bankers say could value the Company at USD 120 Billion. It will have to convince investors who may be skeptical over its scandal-plagued past and lack of profits in the ride-hailing business by pointing to its plans for delivery drones, flying taxis and rental electric scooters and bicycles.
Proponents of unmanned aircraft such as Uber, Amazon.com Inc. and other companies are scrambling to draft wide-ranging blueprints for various home delivery efforts, ranging from training ground operators and certifying vehicles to analyzing hazardous incidents. But Uber sketched out a faster timeline than many regulators envision, and such companies generally have been careful to avoid antagonizing regulators by publicly laying out comprehensive plans before they have even been formally submitted or gone through vetting by regulators.
“We need flying burgers,” said Khosrowshahi at the conference. He said deliveries within five to 30 minutes could be possible.
UberEats has been a bright spot for the Company, according to Uber and its investors. It has expanded rapidly to hundreds of cities, and Khosrowshahi said this spring that its annual gross food sales—from which UberEats takes a commission—is growing at a rate that would reach USD 6 Billion if stretched over 12 months.
Before Uber can make any drone deliveries, the Federal Aviation Administration will have to develop rules for operating the vehicles beyond the sight of ground operators. Initial regulatory concepts aren’t likely to be revealed until the first quarter of next year, at the earliest, according to industry observers.