Usually in Brazil, a faint buzzing noise in the skies above signals the imminent flypast of helicopters hunting criminals or delivering business executives to office rooftop landing pads. Increasingly, such noise could herald the arrival of something a little more comforting – food. iFood, a Brazilian online food delivery and ordering platform, will become the sector’s first company to carry out drone deliveries in Brazil’s north-eastern state of Sergipe.
A Brazil-based food industry executive explained how drones will cut delivery times significantly, “Today, iFood is able to deliver food items in five to fifteen minutes whilst traditional deliveries can range from 20 to 35 minutes. For example, using drones, the journey between Aracaju and Barra dos Coqueiros, in Sergipe, was shortened to 5 minutes from 25 to 55 minutes.”
“Using drones, the journey between Aracaju and Barra dos Coqueiros, in Sergipe, was shortened to 5 minutes from 25 to 55 minutes.”
Executive, Food industry, Brazil
The rise of drones comes against a backdrop of increased online food ordering revenue across Latin America, much of it spurred by Covid-induced restrictions. Last year, Brazilian companies in the sector saw sales of USD 3.8 billion whilst Mexican equivalents recorded USD 2.2 billion in revenue.
iFood will become the first company in Latin America to use drones to deliver meals. In January the company’s technology partner, Speedbird Aero, received authorisation from the National Civil Aviation Agency (“ANAC”) to deliver up to 2.5 kg of goods within a 3 km radius.
By Brazilian standards, the application progressed swiftly – within eight months approval was granted. ANAC itself has remarked that using the technology for consumer goods is one of the most anticipated and exciting applications of drone technology – a rare endorsement from the regulator.
Speedbird has also been keen to highlight the fact that its technology is developed entirely in Brazil – politicians have also trumpeted its innovation and use of domestic tech minds on Twitter.
The drones fly on pre-established routes, from take-off to landing, reducing the average journey time by 70%. Once the order arrives at the Droneport, the delivery driver transports it by traditional means (motorcycle, bicycle, or scooter) to the customer’s home. In the future, drones could deliver directly to homes – but restrictions on proximity to people and houses means such developments remain a work-in-progress.
From a commercial perspective, iFood is likely to keep a sharp eye on market trends given that its technology can be easily adapted and scaled up – food can be delivered to restaurants and other businesses as well as homes.
The executive explained, “For iFood and local businesses, there are mutual benefits. Drones make delivery possible to regions that it previously could not service. For customers, the drones can open up access to new restaurants. As for the couriers, who will make the last leg of the delivery leaving the order at the final destination, drones can generate more orders, with shorter routes – providing couriers with more opportunities and higher revenues.”
“Drones make delivery possible to regions that it previously could not service. For customers, the drones can open up access to new restaurants.”
Executive, Food industry, Brazil
iFood is now planning its next steps to increase the operation in Sergipe and explore new routes across the country, evaluating the 200 addresses already mapped to understand where they can gain efficiency using drones. iFood believes the future of logistics follows the future of cities, which is toward shared, electric and sustainable delivery modes.