Arlington to use drones, delivery robots to deliver food to residents in need

Arlington is determined to use technology to help others.

The city is launching a program to use drones and robots to make deliveries to the city's most vulnerable citizens.

"I love being in a city that likes to find the cool stuff to do and this is cool stuff that benefits our residents who are in most need," said Mayor Jim Ross.

Arlington Mayor Jim Ross is referencing a new pilot program that is hovering over the idea of a more inclusive community. Autonomous vehicles to assist the city's disadvantaged residents.

"Technology is delivering real solutions to real problems," said Michael Morris of the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

The unique partnership bring air delivery of non-perishable food, medicine or other essentials to those who are homebound, with special needs and no access to transportation.

"We have to eliminate food deserts to create an opportunity to deliver medicine when our children are very ill, and we can’t get out of the house to get that particular medicine," said Morris.

The Tarrant Area Food Bank points to the pandemic with people driving to receive food donations with a reminder that there are many residents who don't own vehicles.

"It’s starting to give us some ideas. One of the first applications might be very dense housing situations. Apartment complexes with families and these drones would serve a local delivery role within those high-density communities," said Stephen Raeside with the Tarrant Area Food Bank.

UT Arlington is a partner to help educate the community.

"We’ll be able to investigate how deliveries can be more energy-efficient, and effective for our residents. This study will also lead to a roadmap of better scaled-up operations," said Dr. Kate Miller with UTA Research and Innovation.

The two-year program is funded with the help of a $780,182 federal grant, underscoring the energy efficiency of the unmanned aircraft and plans that also include four-wheeled robots smaller than cars making deliveries.

The city of Arlington's program is the vehicle maker's first step into the US.

"We are not replacing transportation, and how it is done today, we are just adding another layer," said Santiago Barrera with the drone delivery company Aerialoop.

It was also noted that the growth of North Texas is keeping pace with an additional 1 million people every seven years and that makes this innovative idea all the more important.