Cloudy with a chance of pizza: Drone company elevates food delivery, raises other applications

A drone delivery service, with applications for delivering medical supplies and groceries, is working with a major pizza chain, bringing flying pizza to the future.

“You guys might be seeing some pizza from the sky coming to a city near you,” Cameron Rowe, the CEO of Hover, told

Rowe explained that a partnership is in the works between Hover and Canadian pizza company Pizza Pizza, with goals of elevating (literally) food delivery for customers throughout the country.

“Pizza is a competitive market so we have been working on how they could differentiate themselves with a unique delivery technique that also creates a really fun, novel and fun experience,” Rowe explained.

In a statement from Pizza Pizza, CEO Paul Goddard said the company is “excited about the commercial potential of drone delivery as a new channel for our customers.”

He added that, “We look forward to working in tandem with a leading last-mile company like Hover to help write the playbook on environmentally and economically sustainable pizza delivery in Canada.”

Rowe admitted that some logistical factors still need to be figured out.

“Pizza is pretty big, so we need to figure out how we could get that on board and deliver it. There are lots of ways to do it. We’re really excited.”

But the drones have other uses too, potentially in more serious situations, with deliveries ranging from emergency food supply to defibrillators.

Rowe said there are a combination of methods that Hover uses to enable autonomous drone delivery – meaning deliveries that do not need to be remote controlled by humans. Much of these methods come down to “overlaying different sets of data.”

“Some of it is GPS data, some of it is using on-board cameras, some of it is using sensors, and then additional proprietary methods that we use to combine it all, to say, ‘I’m here downtown at the office, can we get a delivery out front?’”

He added that, in many cases, Hover may have to plan routes in advance.

“It’s the kind of thing that we are actively looking into to make more efficient so as many people as possible could have this be an option for autonomous phone deliveries.”

Rowe presented his technology at the Hardware Tech and Founders Showcase, an exhibit in Toronto, hosted by founder-support organization Journey, on Thursday.

Standing before a display of his drone, with modules that can carry up to eight pounds during flight, he spoke about how this tech could help in ways beyond flying pizza.

“We’ve done training with the RCMP and on Indigenous reserves as well,” he said, referring to the drone’s application of emergency response.

Rowe explained that Hover drones have dropped emergency supplies, such as Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), and has completed tests in search and rescue and emergency delivery situations.

“One of the parts about these drones is that they’re very modular. So we can put a thermal camera on it, in addition to drone delivery equipment. So at night time we would be able to see and deliver supplies.”

He mentioned that drone delivery services could be of great help during climate change, with extreme weather events sometimes making roads inaccessible.

“In the same way that a plane could still fly through clouds, but a pilot may not be actively looking and seeing what’s going on, (drones) can plan routes through smog, smoke, rain, snow, hail. There are limits, of course. If the wind is over 60 miles per hour, it would have to stop. But it’s very rare that that actually happens. It’s not a total replacement, but there are many circumstances in which this is better, and those are what we’re trying to focus on.”

On a personal level, while Rowe was creating this service, he thought of his loved ones.

“I thought for people like my grandparents, who are getting a little older,” he said. “This is something that could really benefit them.”

From pizza to emergency supplies, Rowe is excited for what the future of drone delivery holds, “having on-time, cheaper, more accurate delivery right to your backyard, balcony or place of work.” 

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