Brisbane-based global pizza business Domino’s has been grabbing headlines over the past year with its experiments in robotics and drone delivery.
In March, CEO Don Meij, unveiled the company’s $30,000 pizza delivery robot, DRU (Domino’s Robotic Unit), amid hopes they’d be cruising Brisbane streets by the end of 2016.
Meij was back five months later and grabbing global attention with the first commercial drone delivery service in the world in New Zealand.
And as the man in charge of a $2 billion pizza delivery empire reveals in a major interview with Business Insider today, New Zealand authorities and have actively encouraged Domino’s to make the project a reality as quickly as possible.
Where to next is up in the air, so to speak, with Meij revealing he’s written to Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull about the issue, but it’s “still bogged down” in regulatory issues.
“Whether we go from New Zealand to Australia, is yet to be known, but we’re not in a position in Australia to do it yet,” he said.
But Meij, who is at No.4 in Business Insider’s list of coolest 100 people in Australian tech, is confident the change is coming, but existing drivers – and he started out as one – shouldn’t worry.
“My view is that our business is going to double in the next five years, so we need more than twice as many drivers because more of the growth’s coming from delivery. When we launch DRU ground and DRU drone, they’re not going to do 100% of deliveries. You can’t get inside buildings and high-rises,” he said.
Whether or not there’s a droid at your front door or a drone hovering over your backyard, Meij answered the question many have been asking about how the company and its drone partner, Flirtey, will deal with any potential problems. What happens, for example, if a bunch of blokes after too many beers decide to try and drag down the drone?
Unless you’re an Olympic medalist trap shooter, or have a US MK15 Phalanx weapons system installed in the backyard, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to nab it in flight because as Domino’s boss explains “they’re a long way up, and they’re pretty hard to take out of the sky, because they’re quite small”.
Flirtey has worked with NASA in developing safety systems for its drones. For example, there’s a built-in parachute, so if anything goes wrong, it lands safely, and when the pizza is being lowered on the cable, it releases automatically the moment it hits a hard surface.
Then there’s the military-grade tracking system in each drone.
“They had to get the US government to sign off on that to leave America, to go into New Zealand as a friendly country,” Meij says.
So what happens if someone grabs the cable to try and pull it down?
“The cable would decouple. And you will end up with the cable, and we’ve filmed the whole thing,” Meij explains.
“So, you will have the cable, and probably the next call on your doorstep is the police officer, asking you to return the cable, or the company.”
Read Business Insider’s full interview with Don Meij here.
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