Infinium Robotics’ drones are due to be introduced at the restaurant chain by the end of the year, carrying up to 4.4 pounds of food and drink each, according to the BBC. The airborne, unpiloted robots will deliver food within the restaurant by swooping over the heads of diners on paths charted by a computer program, using infra-red sensors placed around the restaurant.
Infinium says the drones will be able to free up staff members to focus more on interacting with customers or other tasks that require higher-level thinking. It’s especially important in Singapore, where the country’s food-and-beverage industry lacks nearly 7,000 people.
“The food-and-beverage (F&B) sector is plagued by a severe shortage of workers,” according to a report from Singapore’s Ministory of Trade and Industry. “Many seemed to attribute this to the low profile of the industry, long and irregular working hours, as well as the negative connotation associated with an F&B service staff.”
It’s a similar situation in the U.S., where the 2012 average annual salary for waiters and waitresses was $18,590, according to the American Job Center. And it’s not easy for the U.S. restaurants to find waiters either: Nearly 43% of open jobs in the food-service industry remain unfilled for longer than three months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Could U.S. establishments benefit from drone waiters?
“Robots can shift tasks away from humans, and we can do the higher cognitive functions,” said Jonathan Rupprecht, a commercial pilot and practicing lawyer. “Robots can’t do art, can’t mix drinks. They can’t put garnishments on food. You can spend more money on the chef, then free him up with robots that can work long hours.”
The price for the Infinium Robotics drone is not publicly available, but Rupprecht says high-tech drones such as ones used for detection by bomb squads can cost more than $100,000. The DJI Spreading Wings S1000 costs about $3,600.
“But you’re not going to have to pay income taxes or health insurance to robots,” Rupprecht said. “It takes a lot of problems off the table from a business standpoint.”
Singapore has been working to find technological solutions to solve its labor shortage. A Singapore tax credit launched in 2010, the Productivity and Innovation Credit Scheme, allows businesses to get a 400% tax deduction of up to $400,000 for qualifying expenditures.