How A Food Delivery Caused A Substantial Power Outage

Over 2,000 Brisbane, Australia residents suffered a power outage after a food delivery drone landed on powerlines in the area and subsequently caught fire.

By Jennifer Hollohan | Published

Food delivery is increasingly popular, so some companies have developed creative solutions to capitalize on demand. One such approach comes via air – via food delivery drones ready to get your meal to you quickly and piping hot. Except one of these novel drones is making global news for something entirely unrelated after causing a large power outage.

Residents in one Australian city found themselves without power recently after a food delivery drone landed on nearby power lines. The Brisbane outage impacted over 2,000 customers. And while most suffered only a 45-minute outage, roughly 300 got the news they would be without power for nearly three hours.

The local energy company, Energex, turned off power to conduct a safety inspection after getting notified of the drone’s landing. The food service drone came to rest on top of some power lines. They did not receive any damage from the impact, but what followed caused some concern.

With over 11,000 volts coursing through the drone, it ended up catching fire and falling off the power lines. Energex performed a complete safety inspection to rule out any additional damage. According to responding workers, the food was still hot and intact when they arrived, which is great news for the customer.

The food delivery drone belongs to a company called Wing, a subsidiary of Alphabet, which is the parent company of Google. The innovative meal delivery company provides services in three countries, Australia, the US, and Finland. They operate hovering helicopters and fixed-wing versions for deliveries. 

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A Wing representative spoke with The Verge, telling them the food delivery drone made a “precautionary controlled landing yesterday … and came to rest on an overhead power line.” The company is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding the emergency landing. They are unsure whether the food service drone experienced technical problems or if the crash was due to human error.

Wing has extensive experience operating the new technology and has completed over 200,000 deliveries by March this year. According to the company, this is the first time something like this has occurred. They praised Energex’s fast response and assistance in resolving the situation.

The energy company took the opportunity to remind everyone to use caution when flying drones. A spokesperson said “Fifteen years ago, we asked people to be careful if they were giving their children kites for Christmas and where they were flying them. Now we’re asking parents to be very careful with where their kids fly their drones.”

And while drones are a popular item for kids and hobbyists, they have not exactly taken off as a popular delivery option. That despite Amazon’s decade-old prediction that delivery drones were the future. However, they do provide valuable services to suburbs and rural communities.

Many rural areas are not close to critical items, including medical supplies. Drone services help ensure residents in these areas have access to necessary medicine and other medical supplies. Small delivery companies have stepped up to the plate, offering drone delivery services in this niche. 

And, for companies like Wing, food delivery drones help fill in gaps left by more traditional delivery companies. Service in rural and suburban areas can be sparse at best. Now, thanks to drones, they can order food from the comfort of their own home or office.