Frozen yogurt delivery by drone became a reality this week in Holland, Mich., where the Orange Leaf chain is taking flight.
Oklahoma City-based Orange Leaf tested its first drone delivery Tuesday to the campus at Hope College, in a program dubbed “Project Flying Orange Unicorn.”
Having proven that it can be done safely and within current U.S. Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, Orange Leaf is now offering drone delivery on an appointment basis for events and parties, said Geoff Goodman, president of the 265-unit chain.
“Now that we have some data and know the effort and commitment it takes, we can refine the business model,” Goodman said.
The move is made possible in Holland because Orange Leaf franchisee Jeremy Latchaw, who owns two units in town, is also president of local drone dealership Mishigami Group. The dealership also works with local fire and police departments in developing unmanned aerial vehicle programs.
Latchaw is a major in the U.S. Army, and was deployed twice during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Mishigami Group pilot Matt Rybar is working with Orange Leaf to develop the pilot program.
If all goes well with the test, Orange Leaf will look at expanding drone delivery to more markets. “We’re trying to pioneer this as a replicable model,” Goodman said.
The drone can carry up to 30 to 35 pounds, or up to about 30 servings of pre-packed cups of yogurt. The cups are packed in a modified catering box and wrapped in an ice blanket.
The cost of drone delivery, however, remains unclear. Goodman said it will depend on the distance and flight time.
“I don’t know if we’ll see drone delivery happening with a single cup to your back door, but for specific events, it’s more viable,” Goodman said.
Both Chipotle Mexican Grill and Domino’s Pizza have tested drone delivery. Goodman said he believes food taking flight will soon be the norm.
“We’re still waiting for the FAA to approve guidelines,” he said. “But we do think drone delivery is viable. The technology exists today to send a drone out to a specific location and have it return unmanned. It’s in the not-too-distant future.”