After the aerial drone industry pivoted from consumers to commercial markets, it has seen increasing interest in applications such as inspection, delivery, and security. Earlier this month, Flytrex Inc. and Jersey Mike's Subs partnered to delivery food orders in Holly Springs, N.C.
In addition to its deal with Jersey Mike's, Flytrex today announced that it has partnered with The Ice Cream Shop, Unilever's first digital storefront, to deliver ice cream brands including Ben & Jerry's, Breyers, Good Humor, Klondike, Magnum, Popsicle, and Talenti. The ice cream market could grow to $122.1 billion by 2031, estimated Allied Analytics LLP.
“Through the new partnership with Unilever’s digital storefront, you can scream for ice cream and have it in just minutes,” said Yariv Bash, co-founder and CEO of Flytrex. “Why settle for a melted pint in an hour when you can have your ice cream via the skies cold and delicious too?”
The Tel Aviv, Israel-based company is operating its service with Causey Aviation Unmanned to a total of more than 10,000 homes in Holly Springs, Fayetteville, and Raeford in North Carolina, as well as in Granbury, Texas. Flytrex said flight times will be under three minutes and claimed that it has made more drone deliveries than any other company in the U.S.
Bash responded to the following questions from Robotics 24/7:
For your food-delivery services, will you be delivering within a mile radius, or some portion of that covered area?
Bash: Yes, Flytrex is currently operating under an FAA waiver allowing a delivery radius of one nautical mile (1.15 mi.) across all service stations.
Did you have to do anything differently regarding the delivery of subs and ice cream—do they need hot/cold/leakage containment, do they weigh differently, etc?
Bash: Flytrex’s fastened delivery box guarantees orders are delivered just the way they were packed. Using a wire release mechanism, orders are gently lowered from eighty feet, not dropped. This ensures quiet and secure delivery of anything, including a dozen eggs or a milkshake.
Additionally, Flytrex’s drones can handle a maximum of 6.6 lb.— enough to feed a family for dinner.
A Flytrex drone lowers a test delivery in Grand Forks, N.D. Source: Flytrex
While Flytrex and Causey Aviation have an FAA waiver for beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations, are these deliveries fully remote-controlled? How much autonomy do the drones have?
Bash: Flytrex and Causey Aviation are together working towards attaining BVLOS approvals. The current waiver allows it to operate over people and moving vehicles, as well as operate two drones simultaneously by a single pilot.
Flytrex is committed to ensuring the highest levels of safety, which is why it has been working alongside the FAA in its BEYOND initiative. Together with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Flytrex is working to help tackle the remaining challenges of safe and efficient drone integration, including BVLOS operations.
Flytrex’s drone-delivery system is fully autonomous, which allows Flytrex and Causey Aviation to slash costs and reduce delivery times for our customers. With Flytrex’s on-demand drone-delivery system, a single drone operator can perform more than 10 deliveries per hour, compared to the usual one to three deliveries per hour using a bicycle or a car—leading to better service at a more affordable price.
How many brands are you now delivering in the Holly Springs area? What makes it ideal for these services? Are there any schools nearby?
Bash: Customers can download the Flytrex app and see the various options available for delivery. Orders can be placed with national restaurant chains including Starbucks, Taco Bell, Papa John’s Pizza, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Wendy’s, and grocery giants like Target. All restaurants and retailers are listed on the Flytrex app.
The suburban landscape is ripe for Flytrex’s ultrafast offering. On-demand delivery has been largely seen as economically impractical in suburban and rural areas, where traditional couriers are only able to make around two deliveries per hour.
Flytrex is changing that with its automated, almost instantaneous backyard drone deliveries. All flights are conducted while maintaining the highest safety standards.
What have you learned in your previous partnerships that is helping you with the latest delivery partners? Have you had feedback for the FAA?
Bash: Flytrex works closely with regulators to help ensure the highest safety standards. It participated in the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP) which concluded in October 2020, and has continued in the FAA’s subsequent initiative, BEYOND.
[We're] working with the North Carolina Department of Transportation to help tackle the remaining challenges of UAS [unmanned aerial system] integration—bringing swift, affordable and sustainable on-demand drone delivery to more partners, communities, and consumers across the country.
Flytrex has extensive experience operating on-demand drone deliveries at scale—delivering higher volumes faster to an impressive and growing number of satisfied customers. Flytrex seamlessly handles multiple drones at once and manages deliveries of both hot and cold food items.
When will drone deliveries be available outside North Carolina and Texas?
Bash: Flytrex is focused on its current operations in North Carolina and Texas—providing quick and convenient delivery to suburban homes—while preparing to set up its second station in the Dallas Fort-Worth area, which will be announced soon.
Additionally, the company is always looking at new locations for expansion, with the goal of bringing ultrafast delivery to even more suburban homes across the U.S.
About the Author
Eugene Demaitre is editorial director of Robotics 24/7. Prior to joining Peerless Media, he was a senior editor at Robotics Business Review and The Robot Report. Demaitre has also worked for BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, and TechTarget. He has participated in numerous robotics-related webinars, podcasts, and events worldwide.
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