Not only is the Tacocopter, a drone that delivers the tasty Mexican food, real, it's being funded by Taco Bell, sources tell Fast Company.
While several reports understandably called the savory whirlybird biz a fake and a hoax, a source tells us that Dustin Boyer, one of the Tacocopter’s creators, planned to tell the real story at Friday evening's Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference at NYU in New York City. On a phone call Friday, Boyer confirmed that the Tacocopter is real and at least partially funded by Taco Bell. He declined to elaborate further.
UPDATE: On Friday, Tacocopter canceled its plans to speak at the conference. No official explanation was given. [Ed. note: The headline, sub-headline and time stamp on this story were changed to reflect this update.]
Before the scheduled event, another creator, Star Simpson, denied that Taco Bell is involved but said there were "working prototypes" of the Tacocopter. She conceded she was not sure about the content of the planned demonstration at the drone conference on Friday night, but said she was still involved in the project.
It is unclear when Taco Bell got involved and to what extent--or whether this is part of a one-off marketing stunt or something more like a real business model. A spokesperson for Taco Bell has not responded to an email seeking comment on the Tacobot and did not yet respond to a phone message seeking comment.
If the project moves ahead, it'll have to figure out how to navigate Federal Aviation Authority regulations that prohibit commercial drone usage. But H.R. 658, signed into law in February of last year, appropriated money to the FAA to "streamline programs, create efficiencies, reduce waste, and improve aviation safety and capacity, to provide stable funding for the national aviation system, and for other purposes." It's part of a plan for the FAA to open up airspace to civilian drone use by September 2015.
Chris Anderson, the former Wired Magazine editor and current drone evangelical, recently called the idea of food delivery by drones "incredibly stupid." His own drone company, 3D Robotics, is currently promoting for drones for use in agriculture.
Others seem to be more aligned with Tacocopter's cool ranch vision of the future--imitators such as Domino's pizza have floated the idea of a pie-delivering Domicopter, and a couple of startup bros have suggested launching their own burrito bomber (both have proof-of-concept videos; the Tacocopter only kind of does).
Here's to hoping we get a live demo at the drone conference soon. Around dinnertime, preferably.