Coffee drones takes flight

coffee drones

Delivery service Wing is using drone technology to get coffee and other valuable items into the eager hands of customers.

Many people wish they could open their front door to be greeted by a hot coffee first thing in the morning, but for those in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, and Logan, Queensland, it has come true.

Drone delivery service Wing touched down in Canberra in early 2019, extending to Logan a few months later, offering merchants – from cafés and food makers to hardware and clothing stores – a new way to do business.

Terrance Bouldin-Johnson, Head of Australian Operations at Wing, tells BeanScene the app’s coffee merchants are its most popular in both cities.

“Australia having the coffee culture it does, we’re not surprised,” he says. “Overall, Australians are early adopters when it comes to technology. We had several conversations going with different aviation regulators around the world and the ones in Australia came to fruition just as we were ready to launch.”

All orders through the Wing app are dispatched from its delivery facility. For coffee, it has partnered with Kickstart Expresso in Canberra and Extraction Artisan Coffee in Queensland, which operate coffee bars inside the Wing facilities in both states.

A new customer just needs to download the app and register to order. When an order comes in, the barista is notified, makes the coffee, and loads it onto a drone, which is sent on its way. Once the drone arrives, it gently lowers the package into the customers front or backyard before flying home. Terrance says from placing the order to receiving it can take as little as six or seven minutes.

“I remember hearing from a mum with a newborn and two-year-old who wanted to get some coffee beans. She was getting ready to pack everybody up in the car, happened to check her app, and we’d just onboarded a coffee bean merchant, so she didn’t have to go to the trouble of leaving the house,” he says.

While working parents have been Wing’s core demographic, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen many more people jump onboard with the service. 

Use of Wing’s drone delivery service increased more than 500 per cent worldwide from February to April, including thousands of deliveries in Australia in that timeframe. Its number of deliveries doubled from February to March, and again from March to April.

“COVID-19 is changing the way people do business. Instead of visiting a brick and mortar store, they’re transitioning to online, and our contactless service has really connected,” Terrance says. “It extends the merchants’ reach, especially the smaller ones. We have a chocolatier on the app, for instance, who only ever sold their goods at farmers markets. If you weren’t at that farmers market on Saturday or Sunday, you wouldn’t experience it. We opened their goods up to four new suburbs.

“These are sales that wouldn’t have otherwise happened in most cases. Where we give the biggest benefits is to smaller, family-owned businesses, like Extraction Artisan Coffee and Kickstart Expresso.”

Between March and April, orders through the app to Extraction Artisan Coffee increased by 372 per cent. Owner Alex Milosevic says the partnership with Wing meant he could guarantee work for his baristas through COVID-19 restrictions. 

“I did one shift where someone on the Wing app got two coffees delivered. Within minutes, we had another five or six orders to the same address come in because their neighbours must have seen it and were getting coffee delivered too,” Alex says.

“That started from one household. As they realise the convenience of it, everybody is going to jump onboard.”

Extraction Artisan Coffee’s relationship with Wing began when the delivery service came to Logan and asked the local community which businesses it should collaborate with.

“We always try to be innovative in the way we operate as a business and interact with the community. If you look at the way technology is headed, drone delivery is going to happen. I’d rather be part of the process from day one,” Alex says. “As a business, we want to deliver a great customer experience, and with drone delivery, it’s the exact outcome we’re looking for.

“Where it’s excelling is people getting really excited by the idea of being home on a Sunday morning and having a coffee show up on their doorstep.”

While Wing doesn’t have current plans to expand to other areas, instead focusing on perfecting its existing service, Terrance envisages the service flying further.

“By drone is the most efficient, greenest, and safest way to deliver something,” Terrance says. 

“For now, we’re really just concentrating on the areas that we’re in, getting it right, taking community feedback on board, and making sure our offerings are meeting what the community wants. It’s early days, but at some point, we see ourselves servicing as much of Australia as we can.” 

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This article appears in the December 2020 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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