It’s noisy, but you don’t have to tip it. (Infinium Robotics)

A Singapore restaurant plans to use drones to transport food and drinks from the kitchen to a wait station near customers’ tables by the end of this year.

Infinium Robotics, the Singapore company that’s developing the drones for restaurant chain Timbre, showed off the technology here:

It has spent the past two weeks testing the technology at the restaurant before it opens each night for business.

Delivering plates of food and drink to individual tables sounds like a recipe for disaster. How does the drone know where to hover? What if someone bumps into the drone or is standing in its way?

While Infinium Robotics claims it’s all technically possible, Timbre won’t be delivering food from the kitchen straight to customers’ tables. It wants to preserve a human touch. So the drones will fly from the kitchen to two stations frequented by waiters. The routes are 30 and 60 feet. The drones are programmed to fly no lower than 8½ feet, so as not to crash into any guests.

“There’s no chance at all you will hit anything,” says Infinium Robotics chief executive Junyang Woon.

The drones automatically charge while waiting in the kitchen. After the chef puts an order on the drone, he hits a button on a keypad and the drone automatically flies to one of two wait stations. Sense-and-avoid technology built into the drone won’t allow it to land at the wait station if anything is in its way. The drones are also equipped with sonar and an infrared sensor.

A waiter then removes the food or drink from the drone and hits a button that sends it back to the kitchen. The 5 1/3-pound drones can carry just over four pounds of food. Infinium Robotics, which develops the hardware and software, is working on a model that will carry twice as much food.

Woon says this isn’t just a gimmick or marketing stunt to help restaurants draw in customers. He points out that unlike a human or traditional robot, the drone flies above congested areas, providing more efficient service.

“Its job is to help the waiters, to alleviate some of their mundane tasks,” Woon said. “If they let the robots do the job they can concentrate on interacting with customers to bring about higher customer satisfaction and dining experience.”


Woon says the drones will free up waiters to spend more time with customers. (Infinium Robotics)

Since drawing recent media attention Woon has heard from resorts and restaurants in 10 countries, including the United States.

“The reason why we wanted to focus on restaurants right now is because it doesn’t have issues with privacy,” Woon said. “It doesn’t have issues with outdoor regulations where we have to seek permission from the FAA for example, because it might interfere with the commercial airliners.”