As you may know, the majority of the buzz regarding drone deliveries has been around Amazon and Google. We’ve all heard their announcements and we’ve all heard about their tests. After all, that’s what the media has been focussing on. We even wrote about it here.
But what we all seem to have overlooked, myself included, is a relatively small company called Flirtey. And it turns out that Flirtey has been at the forefront of drone delivery for a while now. They just still seem to fail to get the media spotlight. Even though by now they’ve done 3 version of their “first” FAA-approved drone delivery in the US.
So while all media eyes have been focussed on Google and Amazon the last couple of years, Flirtey has already taken it a couple of steps further by successfully completing an FAA-approved drone delivery.
Let’s look at what they’ve accomplished so far:
First FAA-approved drone delivery
July 2015 saw Flirtey’s first delivery by drone in Virginia. The, originally Australian, drone company managed to do the first FAA approved delivery there, in Wise County. This delivery contained medical supplies and was delivered to a clinic in Wise County.
This first successful, approved, delivery clearly showed the potential for drone deliveries systems, especially in hard to reach locations. Obviously, this still has nothing to do with deliveries in densely populated areas but it is a start. Not only did it show the potential of drone deliveries but it also proved, as many of you already know, that technology is not the limiting factor when it comes to drone deliveries, legislation is.
Second FAA-approved drone delivery
Less than a year later, in March 2016, Flirtey came back for a second first. This time, they went to Hawthorn, Nevada for the first FAA approved drone delivery in a rural area.
Chances are you’ve never heard of Hawthorn. I hadn’t. Apparently it’s a small town with a couple of thousand inhabitants and has a total area of 1.5 square miles (3.9 km2). And if you google it that, aside from the town being close to a U.S. Army ammunition storage depot, is about all there is to say about Hawthorne.
Until Flirtey put it on the map that is. Now, Hawthorne, Nevada is also the site of the first urban autonomous drone delivery in the United States. The package that Flirtey delivered was an emergency package containing water, food, and a first-aid kit. This package was chosen to show that a drone could be very useful in emergency situations and to show just what it might be able to carry to people in need of help/rescue.
As this was a flight to show capabilities of drone delivery they chose to have the package was delivered to an uninhabited property. While keeping all possible risks to a minimum, it did proof that drones can deliver packages in rural areas, regardless of power lines, street lights, trees and other objects that it encounters there.
When asked (in an interview with Fortune) how Flirtey managed to get FAA approval for this flight before companies like Amazon CEO Matt Sweeny explained that they received approval faster because of their previous experience testing drone deliveries in New Zealand and Australia.(article by Fortune.com)
Third FAA-approved drone delivery
Then, on 11 July 2016, had their 3rd “first” in the US. The first FAA-approved drone delivery to a customer’s home. For this delivery, Flirtey teamed up with 7-Eleven to make the first commercial UAV delivery in Reno, Nevada.
In their news release, 7-Eleven said:”This delivery is the first time a U.S. customer has received a package to their home via drone, representing a historic milestone in both U.S. and global commerce. The delivery was conducted in celebration of the convenience store chain’s 89th birthday.”
The package contained a chicken sandwich, hot coffee, and a slurpee . And, like the previous package, it was lowered down from the drone. Flirtey chose this form of delivery rather than landing the drone for additional safety.
So what is Flirtey exactly? Clearly, it’s a groundbreaking company (no pun intended) that’s it paving the way to autonomous drone delivery.
But who are they and where did they come from?
Their about page says about page says: “Flirtey is the premier independent drone delivery service. Flirtey’s mission is save lives and change lifestyles by making delivery instant.” And they sure seem to be doing well on that front, with 3 successful FAA approved deliveries in the US already. But there must be more to the company
From an article by Australia Unlimited, we know that Flirtey’s was launched in 2013, in Australia and their vision was “to create a future where flying delivery robots save lives and change lifestyles”. Together with the University of Sydney, they developed Flirtey’s first UAVs. By 2014 CEO Matt Sweeny moved Flirtey to the United States where they’d have easier access to investors. Once there Flirtey entered into a partnership with the University of Nevada to perfect the technology they’d already developed.
They started their field testing in New Zealand because it has the most liberal regulations regarding drones, in the world. It’s there that they are now planning to roll out a commercial drone delivery network across the country.
It’s safe to say that Flirtey is currently leading the field of drone delivery, being ahead even of giant companies like Amazon and Google. Keep your eyes on them as autonomous drone delivery keeps getting closer to be a reality.
I’d also like to hear what you think about this. You can use the comment section to let me know how you feel about drone deliveries. Is it something you are looking forward to? You can also get your friends involved in this discussion by sharing this article with them. It’s easy, just use the social media sharing buttons at the top. And if you subscribe to our newsletter you’ll always know when there is something new to report. Just leave your email address in the box on the right-hand side of this page.
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