Drone delivery programs around the world are progressing at a fast pace. Additionally, Zipline, Amazon, Google Wing, etc. are in the process of solidifying their drone delivery infrastructures. In a recent development, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) granted approval to Israeli drone company Flytrex to deliver packages to the homes of Fayetteville, NC.
Flytrex has been testing its drone delivery operations under the FAA’s ongoing pilot UAV program for months now. In 2020, Flytrex came into the spotlight when its drones carried trash bags from Walmart in North Carolina. Now, Flytrex’s drones will deliver actual groceries, food items, and other deliverables directly to homes.
How Will it Work?
The waiver granted to Flytrex only permits the company to make drone deliveries within a one-mile radius. Therefore, customers will have the option of selecting a product and placing the order from the Flytrex app. The order is processed and within minutes it is delivered to the customer’s home through a wire drop. The concept may sound like a giant leap in comparison to its competitors. However, it is worth noting that this operation is still in its nascent stages.
At this point getting your groceries delivered through a drone is still a novelty with a very limited number of options. As the company receives more flexibility to expand its delivery radius and operate with lesser restrictions, the drones could be used to their full potential. Additionally, there are also payload concerns. A shopper can load only a very definite number of items in their cart as a drone’s payload threshold isn’t quite high. Thus, that’s another factor to consider.
Nevertheless, Flytrex’s last drone delivery experiment consisted of drones dropping off packages at a delivery point. Wire Dropping it directly to backyards of houses is definitely a large improvement. This may make drone deliveries more accessible to people, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Line of Sight Deliveries
“Our approval is for line of site operation, and the area services more than 2,000 homes,” said Yariv Bash, CEO of Flytrex. “All the information we’ve seen, this is the largest approval given to date to any drone company in the U.S.”
A single drone operator can operate up to 20 autonomous drones, each carrying a maximum payload of 6.5lbs (2.94 kg). Currently, Flytrex does not manufacture its own drones and has partnered with NC-based Causey Aviation for the delivery program.
In order to get BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) approval, like Amazon’s Prime Air, Flytrex will need to manufacture its own drones to demonstrate a high standard of safety and security. Bash has stated that the goal of the company is to obtain a waiver for BVLOS off-site, beyond two miles from the pick-up point.
“The goal is to deliver from any retailer or restaurant,” he said. “It’s more affordable, faster, greener, and quieter (than a car or van delivery), and it’s private, with no cameras so there are no privacy issues. It’s a better solution for on-demand delivery. We want to make it as ubiquitous as Amazon Prime is today.”
Flytrex has been operating full-scale drone delivery operations in Reykjavik, Iceland since 2017 for eCommerce company Aha. Bash hopes that the FAA will grant Flytrex a BVLOS approval by the end of 2021. This may mark the start of a new race for efficient drone delivery systems.