By now, most folks know that it's just a matter of time before drone deliveries become commonplace. After all, it's been a few years since Amazon revealed that it's been testing such a network, and it would surprise nobody to see the online retail giant roll it out in the near future.
Of course, drone service need not be limited it to Amazon, online retailers and the military. Already, we're seeing drones helping out with golf course maintenance, but now, it appears, drones could be used directly to enhance golfers' experiences on the course as well.
An Israeli drone logistics company called Flytrex -- which has already been implementing drone service in countries like Iceland to deliver food and supplies over difficult terrain -- has partnered with EASE Drones to develop a system that would deliver food and drinks on golf courses, of which there are more than 15,000 in the United States. The testing of such a system is set to begin Sept. 15 at a golf course in North Dakota.
If successful, hungry and thirsty golfers wouldn't have to wait for the beverage cart to come around or go into the clubhouse after nine holes for a hot dog; they would simply use an app on their phones and order food and drink, which would then be delivered via a drone that flies above the flight of golf balls and lowers the bounty on a cable precisely where the golfers are.
"I think it's very interesting, for sure," said Dan Tannahill, head pro at King's Walk Golf Course in Grand Forks, N.D. "The future is going to look something like this."
In other words, someday, golf courses might not need to have beverage carts, which could come as a disappointment for many of the middle-aged men who play golf. The drone service could also be potentially less disruptive to play and, of course, quicker. And it'll certainly be interesting, at least in the short term.
For now, though, beverage carts are safe. The new drone program is only being tested at King's Walk, and there are a kinks to be worked out, like demonstrating to the Federal Aviation Administration that it's safe.
King's Walk, an Arnold Palmer links-style signature course, is close to the University of South Dakota, which has an excellent aviation technology department. Discussions between the university and Grand Forks Parks Department -- which runs King's Walk as well as the nine-hole Lincoln Park Golf Course – led to King's Walk serving as the beta test site with golfers.
The testing involves 40 golfers who have signed up for the program and have the special app on their phones. For now, they will be able to get most items on the menu, including hot dogs, hamburgers, wraps and beverages. Beer will not be delivered, at least not yet, so there will be a beverage cart on the course for that service and for golfers who aren't part of the test.
After all, Tannehill said of the fact that beer won't be delivered through the air, "how to do you check ID's and all that?"
The kitchen staff has been trained. But for now, a pilot will operate the drone, which is an expense most courses won't be able to bear. Future models call for the service to be fully automated. In other words, golfers place their order and the drone basically operates on its own after the kitchen staff loads it with an order.
The testing could last anywhere from two days to two weeks, said Tannahill, adding that the program has been giving the course, which he says is in "excellent shape right now," national attention. He believes that replacing beverage carts with drones is still a "ways away," but it will probably come.
"From a customer standpoint," he said, "It's pretty seamless."
But is it necessary or simply inevitable? While the drones will operate a hundred feet above the golf courses, they still make noise. And do golfers really need to get their snacks and alcohol any sooner than they already do?
We'd like your opinion, so feel free to let us know in the comment section below.