In perhaps the most audacious and value-for-money stunt that the city of Mumbai has yet seen, a once unknown hole-in-the-wall Pizzeria at Kemp's Corner in tony South Mumbai used a drone to delivery a Pizza to a location nearby (Worli), giving further credence to the notion that India can be both way ahead of its time and way behind it.
While this is apparently not the first pizza in the world delivered by a drone—a Dominos franchise snagged that badge of honor by doing so in the UK last year—it certainly was the most attention grabbing.
The idea was born when Francesco Pizza's owner, Mikhel Rajani, stumbled upon a video that Amazon made and popularised in the recent past that showed a drone delivering a package—a method that the e-tailer says that it will follow very soon for deliveries to its 'Prime' service customers.
Rajani decided that hey, if Amazon could do it, then by golly, so could they. So he contacted Fahad Azad of Robosoft, a manufacturer of robotic kits and industrial systems to design a delivery drone for the pizzeria. Before you could say Blade Runner, a four-rotor drone set off with a Francesco pizza from one of its outlets in the Lower Parel area, famous post-independence for its textile mills and now for its high-end shopping malls, and delivered it to a multi-storeyed apartment building in nearby Worli—a distance of 1.5 kilometres—flying over omnipresent slums, the equally ubiquitous games of street cricket and Mumbaikers who watched on dumbfounded.
These drones are apparently bargains, costing a mere $200 per unit versus all of the attendant costs that go along with motorcycle deliveries (salary of delivery boys, fuel costs, bike maintenance etc) and a boon to a city that always seems to be mired in gridlock. So, it begs the question whether the drone is going to become a mainstay of how restaurants and stores begin to deliver their goods.
I'm not sure what would happen in the West but I can easily see various drone-laden packages being shot down by Mumbai street kids with slingshots. Sales of .22 pellet rifles may go through the roof to bring down deliveries of Chinese takeout or Basmati rice being shipped in. Cricket balls, slippers, you name—anything you can get your hands on will undoubtedly be used as missiles to bring down those goodies-laden quadracopters, especially in a city that ranks as one of the poorest in the world. I can put my money on the eventuality that the whole area will become a vibrant shooting arcade.
Inspirational supply chain methodology or not, the Mumbai cops don't seem to be too thrilled about Francesco's little marketing ploy, saying that the pizza maker had not taken police permission—apparently they found out about the stunt only when the video of the flight (available on youtube) went viral.
A company spokesperson, however, contends that no laws were broken since the drone didn't fly above 400 feet which is the threshold level above which they would need permission from the aviation authorities.
You can't really blame the Mumbai cops who have apparently been paranoid about aerial attacks when Abu Jundal, one of the handlers of the 26/11 terrorist attacks that killed close to 200 people in the city revealed that more murder and mayhem was being planned, this time orchestrated no doubt by individuals influenced by the recent Bond films, considering they had fanciful notions of using paragliders for their mayhem.
Therefore, considering these obstacles—and the fact that human beings inevitably always come cheaper than machines in South Asia today—the day of the drone delivering your Tandoori chicken and Naan along with a couple of bottles of Kingfisher is still some ways away.