Cold medicines, hot snacks and soft drinks were among the items delivered by autonomous flying robots to people’s homes in Reno, Nevada in what is being hailed as a "giant leap" towards mass-market drone delivery.
One excited customer in the trial involving the convenience store 7-Eleven said they had become "real-life Jetsons" as drones lowered boxes of goodies by wire into waiting hands just 10 minutes after the order had been placed by a bespoke app.
Raising questions about the future shape of road-based freight transport, the trial saw 77 goods drops in November by drone-delivery start-up Flirtey, collaborating with 7-Eleven and a dozen select customers who were given a custom app showing what could be ordered and tracking the drone’s flight to their homes.
This is a giant leap towards a future where everyone can experience instant store-to-door delivery– Matthew Sweeny, Flirtey
Since July Reno-based Flirtey and 7-Eleven have been preparing the system, which sees drones guided by precision GPS to a customer’s house, where it hovers and lowers the package.
On average, customers got their packages in less than 10 minutes from ordering, Flirtey said in a press release on 20 December.
One customer was so excited by the experience that she called her family to tell them they had just become "the real-life Jetsons". All customers who participated said they would continue to use the drone delivery service as operations expand.
On average, customers got their packages in less than 10 minutes from ordering (Flirtey)
Popular deliveries included hot food, cold beverages and over-the-counter medicines for headaches, cold and flu.
Flirtey and 7-Eleven are planning to expand their drone delivery operations in 2017.
Flirtey hailed the trial as a taste of the future.
"This is a giant leap towards a future where everyone can experience the convenience of Flirtey’s instant store-to-door drone delivery," said the firm’s chief executive, Matthew Sweeny.
To create the technology and logistics systems for a mass-market drone delivery network, Flirtey said it has worked with NASA and top universities.
The company claims to be the first to have conducted a Federal Aviation Administration-approved delivery in the US, the first to perform a fully autonomous drone delivery to a home, and the first to launch a commercial drone delivery service.
Top image: Drones use precision GPS to find a customer’s house, where it hovers and lowers the package (Flirty)