On a lunch break last month, a small custom-built octacopter made a 10-minute flight through the city of Guildford, outside of London. Its special cargo: two large pepperoni pizzas.
The delivery was masterminded by a T + Biscuits, an English creative agency that was hired by Domino's to test prototypes.
"We're looking at making flying pizzas a possibility," Tom Hatton, Master Brewer and founder of T + Biscuits, told NBC News.
A pizza delivering drone smells deliciously similar to the fabled TacoCopter — a taco delivery app which, to the Internet's disappointment, ended up being just a concept design — but Hatton insists the "DomiCopter" is the real deal. "We're serious about it," he said.
Still, don't hold your breath for a local copter-powered delivery system coming anytime soon. The daily business of T + Biscuits has more to do with mobile apps than logistics and safety regulations, and while the video certainly demonstrates that the pizzas did fly, the firm and its client likely did it more for publicity than for revolutionizing the delivery game, at least for now.
The agency hired custom drone makers in the U.K. and tested a few prototypes until they found the best. "Domino's said: 'Right, that's the one. Let's make a video and get it out there,'" Hatton said.
On delivery day, two large, hot, pepperoni pizzas were boxed, stacked and stashed in a thermally insulated bag. The team hoisted the package not onto the scooter rack belonging to a pizza delivery boy but aboard the copter. Operated by a experienced drone pilot, it travelled about 4 miles in about ten minutes.
The delivery was a success, Hatton says — the two pies arrived at the other end in pristine shape. "If anything it went quicker than a pizza boy," because it didn't need to stop at red lights, Hatton remembers. "We were amazed at how easy it was going to be."
The two large pizzas hit the weight limit the drone could carry. "We thought: 'Oh perfect,'" Hatton said, but a big response so far has been: "Well, what if someone ordered more? " To which Hatton's response is: "I can't believe anyone would want to order more than two large pizzas."
In the past, Domino's has run an open contest asking for and rewarding creative pizza delivery ideas. But this time, they approached T + Biscuits, challenging the small firm to come up with a creative way to deliver pizzas. Hatton says the answer was obvious: "Let's make a pizza fly. I mean, how ridiculous? And that's what we did."
Though DomiCopter was the name finally settled upon, the firm's shortlist of names also included "Pepperdroney" and the "Flyin' Hawaiian," named after a pineapple pizza. Hatton said that the octocopter is currently in residence at Domino's U.K. headquarters, where it's being outfitted to carry heavier loads, including two pizzas plus "a massive thing of Coke."
When NBC News reached out to Domino's U.K., a spokesperson sent us the following note. "We had a lot of fun putting the video together. Domino's is an innovative company that is constantly looking at ways to deliver pizzas as quickly as possible. It could be great to think that one day pizzas could fly!”
Nidhi Subbaraman writes about technology and science. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
First published June 3 2013, 4:18 PM