- Drone delivery firm Flirtey completed 77 product deliveries by drone last month to about a dozen different customers on behalf of a nearby 7-Eleven store.
- Flirtey told GeekWire it gained Federal Aviation Administration approval for the deliveries, all of which occurred within a mile of the drone operator's headquarters in Reno, NV (also home to the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems’ drone test range at Reno-Stead Airport). All deliveries were within Flirtey's line of sight.
- The customers who received the Flirtey deliveries used a customized application to initiate their orders. The app provided information on products available for delivery from 7-Eleven, and notified customers when their drone was loaded, when it departed from the store and when it was arriving at their doorstep.
Despite everything you have heard from Amazon and Google, among others, about their grand drone delivery plans, it’s Flirtey and 7-Eleven that right now get sole claim to the title of First Companies to Make Recurring Drone Deliveries in the U.S.
It’s a title that sounds impressive (although maybe you have to be a big drone delivery nerd to be really impressed), and Flirtey in particular deserves a lot of credit for putting the possibilities of drone delivery on display despite a regulatory environment in the U.S, that you would have to describe as being somewhere between high restrictive and incomplete.
That environment forced Amazon to move much of its ongoing drone activity to the U.K., where it just days ago announced that Amazon Prime Air had made its very first drone delivery, a claim that now looks kind of unimpressive when mentioned in the same breath as the 77 deliveries completed by Flirtey and 7-Eleven.
Still, while we need to acknowledge the significance of this project, we also need to point out that it amounts to baby steps in the evolution of drone delivery. At the end of the day, it’s still a pretty tightly controlled and limited pilot program. The number of deliveries made and the live environment in which they occurred represent forward momentum for drone delivery beyond the initial test Flirtey and 7-Eleven ran five months ago, but we still have a long way to go before drones from different providers are delivering all manner of products across a shared airspace and over distances much greater than a mile.