SF Bay Area ‘Tacocopter’ Deliver Service (Unfortunately) Fake

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From hunger to hoax, promises of an airborne taco delivery service fizzle out in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Never get between a Silicon Valley geek and his or her tacos. That’s the lesson learned from the flurry of reporting this week surrounding the rumored “Tacocopter”— a San Francisco Bay Area delivery service that was alleged to have been able to deliver one’s taco order by way of an unmanned quadrotor.

Any rational individual might start to wonder about the authenticity of a service that’s supposed to air-drop one’s lunch in any given location around the San Francisco Bay Area. First off, that presumes there’s an army of people sitting in a control room somewhere all practicing their flight skills across a roughly 50-mile stretch of land (assuming a Tacocopter could deliver from San Francisco to San Jose).

And then there’s the legality. Specifically, you can’t just up and fly an “unmanned aerial vehicle” in the U.S. — that, much like the food business itself, requires a special permit. And it’s a permit that’s allegedly extremely difficult to get, reports Wired’s Christina Bonnington.

It’s for these reasons, and others, why Bonnington and a number of Wired staffers started to question the legitimacy of the “private beta” Tacocopter site. Even though a hungry user could enter an email address and describe a reason why he or she should be allowed into the delivery service, or even apply for a job at Tacocopter, that doesn’t mean that anything was actually happening on the site’s back end. In other words, the site sure looked real — and managed to generate plenty of buzz, with more than 25,000 Facebook likes and over 5,000 Twitter messages directly referencing Tacocopter.

But all good meals must come to an end: Even the Tacocopter. Bonnington tracked down the site’s author — none other than Star Simpson, the same Star Simpson who strapped a circuit board and lights to a sweatshirt and walked into Boston’s Logan International Airport in 2007 (to disastrous results). Simpson verified that the site was indeed a hoax: There’s no Tacocopter, no Tacocopter business, and no indication of what Simpson plans to do with all of the “sign me up!” emails she’s undoubtedly received.

So why the site?

“Partly it 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. A vision. Like what cyberpunk did for the Internet — mull the possibilities, give people things to think about,” Simpson said in instant message conversation with Bonnington. “The other motivation is that we basically only hear about quadrotors in scary contexts, and I think it does give that fear and emotional tension a safe and hilarious outlet.”

Unless, of course, the Tacocopter accidentally drops your meal onto the 101.

By David Murphy, PCMag


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