The first fully autonomous delivery of goods to a commercial customer by a drone in the US took place on Friday in Reno, Nevada.
Donuts, a cup of coffee, a chicken sandwich and some sweets were in two packages separately delivered from a local 7-Eleven store by an autonomous quadcopter developed by Nevada-based start-up Flirtey. The breakthrough delivery took place on the 89th anniversary of the 7-Eleven chain, the largest convenience retailer in the world, which has ambitious plans for using the cutting-edge technology.
“This delivery marks the first time a retailer has worked with a drone delivery company to transport immediate consumables from store to home,” said Jesus H. Delgado-Jenkins, 7-Eleven's executive vice president and chief merchandising officer.
“Drone delivery is the ultimate convenience for our customers and these efforts create enormous opportunities to redefine convenience.”
The recipient of the delivery was a Reno resident named Michael (surname withheld for privacy) and his family.
“My wife and I both work and have three small children ages seven, six and one,” Michael said. “The convenience of having access to instant, 24/7 drone delivery is priceless. It’s amazing that a flying robot just delivered us food and drinks in a matter of minutes.”
The drone navigated to Michael’s house using a precision GPS system. Once at the family’s backyard, the drone hovered in place and gently lowered its package. It made two delivery runs within a span of a few minutes.
“This delivery required special flight planning, risk analysis and detailed flight procedures ensuring residential safety and privacy were equally integrated,” said Chris Walach, Director of Operations from the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS), which collaborated with Flirtey on the technology.
Flirtey aims to make drone deliveries as omnipresent in the future as truck deliveries are today and the cooperation with 7-Eleven represents the largest commercial deal to date.
“This is just the first step in our collaboration with 7-Eleven,” said Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeny. “Flirtey’s historic drone deliveries to date have been stepping stones to store-to-home drone delivery and today is a giant leap toward a not-too-distant future where we are delivering you convenience on demand.”
The companies plan to expand the drone delivery service in future to include other types of items, including batteries or sunscreen. Flirtey hopes to eventually offer its drones to serve humanitarian operations, as well as the online retail sector.