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SALT LAKE CITY — The ability to have tacos delivered at their feet is an idea many people wouldn't hesitate to get behind — especially when the tacos are being delivered by a robot.
The Tacocopter — an unmanned drone helicopter that gives customers tacos on demand — would without a doubt be wildly popular were it to exist throughout the nation.
Taco-hungry Americans could order and pay for tacos on their smartphones, which would supply GPS coordinates to the drone. Once ordered, the tacos would be delivered as long as the customer remained in the ordering location.
It exists in the Bay Area — in concept, at least. For now, the Tacocopter, which has existed since July 2011, has been grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration, as would be any unmanned commercial drone. According to FAA regulations, "unmanned aerial vehicles" cannot currently be used for commercial purposes.
There are other minor problems with the project, such as its ability to navigate dangerous terrain or to keep the food it carries warm.
That hasn't stopped the Tacocopter's creators from dreaming big, though. They hope the Tacocopter website will serve as fodder for discussion of the future of food delivery — think of the implications for tailgating or outdoor barbecuing, for example.
"(Q)uadcopter or drone delivery would affect how we operate in ways we don't quite even have the ability to explore at this time," Star Simpson, co-creator of the project, told the Huffington Post.
Simpson told the Post it is the legal obstacles in the U.S. that are proving to be the biggest challenge in getting the project off the ground.
"Honestly I think it's not totally unreasonable to regulate something as potentially dangerous as having flying robots slinging tacos over people's heads … (but) it's something I definitely would like to see and have mulled many ways to make work," Simpson said.
There have been questions, though, about the veracity of the Tacocopter's creators' claims, and Simpson herself has said it is more of a hoax than an actuality — although she would love to see the project come to fruition one day.
"Partly (the project) was so I would keep thinking about how to make something like this work, and partly it was to do the same for other people," she told PC Magazine. "A vision. Like what cyberpunk did for the Internet — mull the possibilities, give people things to think about."