Drone waiters take trial flight at Timbre

It sounds like a lofty idea, but Timbre @ The Substation is getting ready to roll out autonomous flying robots to serve food and drink.


Infinium-Serve, a drone waiter at Timbre @ The Substation (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)

SINGAPORE: They first created buzz during a demonstration at National Productivity Month last October, and now drone waiters are getting ready to take off in a real restaurant in Singapore.

Bar-cum-restaurant Timbre @ The Substation gave members of the media a sneak peek of their likely deployment on Thursday (Feb 5). The drones are actually autonomous flying robots developed by Infinium Robotics.

Infinium-Serve robots as they are called, were used to transport orange juice and dishes such as smoked salmon from the kitchen to the dining area. The loud whir from the drones’ propellers were drowned out by music during the demonstration.

Once the food is prepared by a chef, the dish is placed on the drone. The chef then keys in the table number on the display of the docking station and the robot waiter navigates its way to the table autonomously. Still, a waiter would be on hand to take the food or drink off the drone, and lay it down on the table.

 

(Video: Marcus Mark Ramos)

Timbre Group’s Managing Director Edward Chia said the time saved by waiters not having to run in and out of the kitchen could free them up to concentrate on taking orders and requests from customers.

“If I ask one of my waiters to deliver food and drinks from point A to point B – normal human mentality is that they would want to walk as little as possible, so they would carry as much things as possible in the one trip,” he said. “With the Infinium-Serve, we can make multiple trips with a lower payload. We can get the food out – fresher and faster,” he added.

Infinium Robotics’ Chief Executive Officer Woon Junyang agreed that drone waiters would increase the interaction time between waiters and customers. “This will result in an enhanced dining experience which will eventually lead to increased sales revenue for the restaurants as well as heightened morale of the staff,” he said.

As for concerns about safety of drones in a live-music bar where people could be dancing or drunk, Mr Woon stressed that infrared sensors built into the drones help them avoid oncoming obstacles and humans. They are also equipped with swarming capabilities, meaning they can fly in multiple formations with colliding.

The drones will be rolled out to Timbre’s five venues across Singapore, and are expected to take flight in at least one venue by the end of this year. The project is estimated to cost a “low seven-figure sum”, said Infinium Robotics.

Makers of the drone waiters said they are working on producing a quieter model and one that could possibly unload dishes or clear tables without human intervention in future.