Food Waste + Drones = Gobble. My team reimagined what a food recovery service could look like 5 years from now. Please watch this short video for the most concise overview of our service design concept.

Did we use drones because they are trendy? No! Drones can

  • cover a lot of ground
  • be automated/optimized
  • have no need for working hours

Questions: While it was relatively easy to come up with a sketch of this idea (use autonomous vehicles to pick up food and redistribute to those in need), nailing down the details was much more difficult. Should we focus on wasted food from farmer’s market “seconds,” large catering events, or simply automate the collection of foods already being donated to the food banks? Should these be terrestrial or aerial drones or both? How can we ensure that users find the service trustworthy, dignified, and a pleasure to take part in?

Solutions: All research pointed us towards recovering prepared meals as having the biggest impact on food waste. Food banks do a lot of great work, but there are many regulations that prevent them from accepting hot meals and volunteers are stretched thin. For the sake of delivery time, we ended up choosing a combination of self-driving cars and aerial drones to deliver the caterer’s leftovers. We envision Gobble being successful in more urban areas, in which case the terrestrial drone will be driving slowly enough for smaller aerial drones to magnetically pick up the boxed meals from the car. We believe that as a hard-working parent, having high-quality food come straight to your door would save a lot of time – and potential embarrassment – driving to food banks, churches, or low-cost grocery stores.

My main takeaway from this project was to not get bogged down in the minute details of an idea for the purposes of a design concept competition. For example, we spent (read: wasted) a lot of time thinking about the design of the container, trying to build 3D models of a special box that can flash freeze the food. In the end, we designed a service for caterers to seamlessly hand off otherwise-wasted food to the doors of families facing food insecurity. The rest is magic.

Click to enlarge. We focused on primary colors to make the idea of drones seem less scary.

The team consisted of myself, Jennifer Baranoff, Michael Richardson, and Maria Ferreira for our Interaction Design Studio. Deliverables: I created the posters in Adobe Illustrator and wrote the video script/performed the voice-over. All team members worked together to come up with the concept by researching the food recovery and drone design spaces. I also got pretty good at finding stock photos.


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