I think many of us have experienced mornings of lying on the couch and wishing futilely that McDonald’s had a delivery service that would bring us a bag full of hash browns and coffee without making us move any further than our front door. I’ve seen many hopeful Sunday morning Facebook pleas of “Anyone want to bring me Dunkin’ Donuts? Anyone?” (Those rarely seem to work, from what I’ve seen.) But there’s new hope for the hungover, courtesy of 7-Eleven and drone manufacturer Flirtey.
You may recall that earlier this year, Flirtey made history when their 3D printed drone made the first autonomous, FAA-approved drone delivery to an urban area in the United States. The drone lowered a package of emergency food, water and first aid supplies to a residential area in Hawthorne, Nevada, and now history has been made again, with a lucky Reno family becoming the first US residents to receive a package delivered directly to their home by a drone – two packages, in fact.
“My wife and I both work and have three small children ages 7, 6 and 1. The convenience of having access to instant, 24/7 drone delivery is priceless,” said Michael, the recipient of the package. “It’s amazing that a flying robot just delivered us food and drinks in a matter of minutes.”
The delivery was planned to coincide with the 89th birthday of 7-Eleven, with whom Flirtey has formed a partnership. The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS), which has worked with Flirtey on their previous deliveries, again teamed up with the company to fine-tune and perfect their packaging and delivery technology.
“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 for NIAS.
Using precise GPS, the drone zipped from the 7-Eleven to the family’s home in mere minutes. According to Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeny, the delivery was just the first step in what the two companies expect to be a lengthy and productive partnership. Additional and expanded drone delivery tests will be forthcoming, and future deliveries will include practical non-food items such as sunscreen and batteries.
“Drone delivery is the ultimate convenience for our customers and these efforts create enormous opportunities to redefine convenience,” said Jesus H. Delgado-Jenkins, 7-Eleven EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer. “This delivery marks the first time a retailer has worked with a drone delivery company to transport immediate consumables from store to home. In the future, we plan to make the entire assortment in our stores available for delivery to customers in minutes. Our customers have demanding schedules, are on-the-go 24/7 and turn to us to help navigate the challenges of their daily lives. We look forward to working with Flirtey to deliver to our customers exactly what they need, whenever and wherever they need it.”
As an apartment dweller who has, at times, rejected the idea of ordering pizza or Chinese food because I’d still have to go all the way down to the lobby to receive it, the idea of having a drone hover right up to my balcony and pass me takeout is an appealing one. Part of me, though, is a bit concerned that the ability to have anything we want dropped right into our hands will exacerbate our tendencies to not want to get off the couch – or, conversely, will further enable our unhealthy stop-for-nothing work culture.
Overall, though, I think the benefits outweigh the risks. For those who are homebound due to illness, having groceries delivered via drone at any time could be life-changing. Likewise, not having to risk going out for essentials in extreme weather conditions could actually save lives.
If drone delivery eventually reaches past 7-Eleven and into the restaurant delivery business, I worry a bit about how many delivery drivers could be put out of work, but that’s a concern that comes with any new robotic or automated technology, going all the way back to self-checkouts at the grocery store. The great technological shift in our industries comes with many tradeoffs, and where some jobs are lost, others are created. According to Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, Flirtey has already been great for the state and its economy.
“I congratulate Nevada-based company Flirtey on making history yet again – this time by collaborating with the world’s largest convenience retailer to complete the first store-to-home drone delivery in Reno, Nevada,” he said. “Through our FAA Test Site designation, Flirtey has cemented Nevada’s position as the leader in the commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) industry and I look forward to seeing them continue to grow and bring jobs to our region.”
Hey – if a flying robot wants to give me a Slurpee, I certainly am not going to say no. What are your thoughts on this rather filling new technology? Discuss further in the Flirtey 3D Printed Drone forum over at 3DPB.com.