The future of delivery has arrived, and the company leading the charge is 7-Eleven? Yes, the world’s largest convenience store chain has launched the first regular commercial drone delivery service to operate in the U.S. The company announced Tuesday it has been making regular drone deliveries to a select set of customers in Reno, NV during the month of November.
Orders of food, beverages and over-the-counter medicines were delivered 77 times to customers who lived within a mile of a specific store. Equipped with a GPS system, the drones hovered near the houses before lowering the packages, all within the line of sight of a drone pilot per U.S. Federal Aviation Administration regulations. On average, customers received their packages less than 10 minutes from the point of order, according to drone producer Flirtey, who partnered with 7-Eleven.
The announcement came after Amazon made its first customer delivery by drone in the Cambridge, UK area, last week. While that drone delivery was to two customers in the countryside, 7-Eleven’s deliveries have been to a dozen people in an urban area. Many experts have been skeptical that drones currently will be able to handle delivery in dense urban populations.
“Flirtey is the world's leader in the drone delivery industry and we have now successfully completed the first month of routine commercial drone deliveries to customer homes in partnership with 7-Eleven,” Flirtey CEO Matthew Sweeny said in a press release. “While other companies in this space are shipping jobs overseas, Flirtey’s goal is to make delivery instant, and in the process create jobs at home for hardworking Americans and veterans. This is a giant leap towards a future where everyone can experience the convenience of Flirtey’s instant store-to-door drone delivery.”
Flirtey and 7-Eleven first partnered in July to deliver a customer’s order of a chicken sandwich, donuts, candy, hot coffee and Slurpees via drone. In October, the FAA and NASA conducted tests in Reno for a low-altitude air traffic control system that would allow for more drone deliveries in the future. The FAA released new drone guidelines in August that allow the commercial use of drones under certain circumstances, but also require that drones remain in sight of the human operator and cannot fly over people.
Flirtey completed the first drone delivery in the U.S. last year, carrying medical supplies to a rural Virginia clinic. This past November, the company partnered with Domino’s to launch the first pizza delivery by drone in New Zealand.