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Why Did A Drone In San Francisco Drop Burgers On The Homeless
PopSci.com / 3 years ago

In 20 years time we will look back on the gimmick drone video as a strange artifact of the 2010s. Sometimes a marketing concept, sometimes just a joke, the gimmick drone videos all share in common a simple unmanned flying machine and the idea that that is enough for a technological revolution. The Whopper Dropper from 2014, recently rediscovered by The Independent, is one such artifact: A multi-copter with a claw that drops burgers to the homeless.

Watch the Whopper Dropper drop Whoppers below:

Was the Whopper Dropper a secret marketing ploy for Burger King? Is it a parable for the detached, mechanical distance with which the bay area’s technologically inclined newcomers view human interaction? To better understand the Whopper Dropper, I spoke with Kristopher Kneen, one of the people behind Dronelyfe, which produced and released the Whopper Dropper video.

Kneen says that the video wasn’t sponsored by Burger King, just that “Whopper Dropper” rhymes. Dronelyfe originally intended to drop happy meals, but the catchy name stuck and that meant using Burger King’s branded specialty. (Burger King, in response to a request for comment, emailed that "This was not a BURGER KING® brand initiative.") The drone used was a custom-built craft, with a transmitter and a claw added to it. The Whopper Dropper was flown at distances up to a mile away.

As Kneen tells it, Whopper Dropper was more than anything a proof-of-concept, and delivering food to the homeless was the first cool idea to help people in the area that came to him and his collaborators. The latest concept Kneen says that DroneLyfe is working on is flying a drone above a park with a large crowd and then dropping $1,000 in cash. They’re looking for a sponsor for that project.

It turns out, there is a technological answer to homelessness, though I’m pretty sure it’s not air-delivered burgers. The technology needed is both simple and ancient: as Salt Lake City discovered, it’s just houses.