Amazon’s recent debut delivery by drone sure won it some attention, but there’s another company quietly working toward the same goal of a full-fledged service on U.S. soil.
Drone specialist Flirtey revealed this week it’s making some progress toward realizing its ambition, recently helping 7-Eleven to make not one, not even two, but a whopping 77 drone deliveries to paying customers in Reno, Nevada.
7-Eleven’s deliveries all took place in November – before Amazon’s U.K.-based effort – with Flirtey’s drone flying to select customers ordering goods using a specially designed shopping app.
Besides allowing them to place orders, the app also kept shoppers up to speed about the progress of their order, sending out notifications when the drone left the store and when it was about to arrive at their home.
The six-rotor drone, which carried items such as hot and cold food and over-the-counter medicines, lowered the boxed order to the ground via a tether once it reached its destination. Once the shopper had their goods, the drone returned to base.
“The drones were flown autonomously within line of sight, within a mile of the store,” Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeny told Digital Trends. “There was a Flirtey operator in the loop to take over if ever needed, but it wasn’t necessary.”
Sweeny noted that Flirtey secured all the required authorizations for the operation, and that all customer orders were placed on-demand – not predetermined – and sent out within minutes. On average, orders took less than 10 minutes to deliver.
Flirtey’s latest collaboration is yet another step toward the day when drones become an integral part of delivery services. However, regulatory hoops and hurdles mean plenty of acrobatics are still required to make it a reality. Flying autonomous drones out of the line of sight of the operator and over built-up locations are the two major obstacles currently facing the likes of Amazon and Flirtey, though as the technology continues to advance, so too will the chances of a fully developed drone delivery service one day taking to the skies.