Brazilian startup to trial drones in food delivery

Startup iFood has received authorization to begin experimental flights

Brazilian startup iFood has received authorization from Brazil's National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) to start experimental flights with drones to support its food delivery service.

iFood's partner companies Speedbird Aero and AL Drones had been working towards securing the authorization for nearly a year. The companies carried out rehearsals as part of the project with ANAC's participation and received the Experimental Flight Authorization Certificate from the agency on August 5.

The experimental flights will take place in two different scenarios and should start before the end of 2020. The drones are intended as a way to boost the efficiency of the logistics operation: the equipment will carry out the first part of the delivery route, which will be completed by a courier using a motorcycle, bike, or scooter.

The Brazilian authorities will decide whether the operation can be expanded based on the results of these initial trials. If the tests are successful, the startup has already identified about 200 cities across the country where the service can potentially be implemented.

One of the trials will take place in the city of Campinas, in the state of São Paulo. The trial will see the drones operating in a 400-meter route between a food court in a shopping mall and an iFood center within the mall, where orders will be distributed to couriers. The startup expects that the time it takes for couriers to get the orders from restaurants in the food court, about 12 minutes, will be reduced to 2 minutes.

In addition, the company will also test the drones in a 1.5-mile route between the iFood order processing center at the mall and a gated community nearby. In this pilot, delivery times are expected to shrink from 10 minutes with current methods down to 4 minutes with the drones.

One of Brazil's 12 unicorns, iFood leads the Latin American food delivery segment and its footprint has increased even further during the Covid-19 pandemic. In Brazil, the number of restaurants registered with the service rose from around 160,000 in March to 212,000 in June, while the number of monthly deliveries increased from 30 million to 39 million during that period.