New Zealand drone startup Flirtey has completed the first urban drone delivery in the US, with FAA approval.
Flirtey completed the test working with the FAA, NASA, the Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center at the University of Nevada at Reno, and the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems. One of the FAA’s designated UAS test sites is located in Nevada.
The FAA has been working with partners at its drone test sites to explore aspects of drone delivery such as beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight, object avoidance technologies, and navigation capabilities in complex and crowded environments like those presented in an urban area.
Test results should influence the FAA’s commercial drone regulations. Recent proposals for the 2016 FAA Reauthorization Act have emphasized the FAA’s responsibility to pass regulations that could support commercial drone applications, including drone delivery; such as BVLOS flight and a micro drone classification.
Flirtey’s test delivered a package of supplies such as might be required in a disaster recovery situation: bottled water, emergency food, and a first-aid kit. The package was delivered to an unoccupied house in Hawthorne, NV. A box was lowered by cord to the front porch of the house from a hovering hexacopter drone.
“Conducting the first drone delivery in an urban setting is a major achievement, taking us closer to the day that drones make regular deliveries to your front doorstep,” Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeny said today in a news release.
Flirtey has already implemented drone delivery in its home country New Zealand, where it has delivered auto parts, and in Australia, where it has delivered textbooks. The company performed the first successful drone delivery in the US working with the FAA back in July, when it delivered a package of medical supplies to a rural location in Virginia.
The latest successful flight, which demonstrated the ability to navigate around buildings, power lines and other obstacles found in a city environment, is good news for other companies hoping to implement drone delivery. With the positive test data backing them up, Amazon, Google, and other retail companies may see regulations allowing widespread drone delivery programs sooner than expected.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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