News & Analysis

Australian drone startup Flirtey delivers its first 7-Eleven slurpee to US customer

- July 25, 2016 3 MIN READ

Australian-founded drone startup Flirtey has delivered its first 7-Eleven slurpee to a US customer in celebration of the store’s 89th birthday. The home delivery service was the first fully autonomous drone delivery to a customer’s residence in the US, which represents a historic milestone for both US drone delivery and global commerce.

A 7-Eleven store in Nevada was chosen to help complete two Flirtey deliveries of hot and cold food and drink items to a customer’s home residence. The drone successfully delivered a chicken sandwich, donuts, coffee, candy and a slurpee to a family within minutes. The store’s items were loaded onto Flirtey’s delivery container and flown autonomously using GPS to a local customer’s backyard.

“My wife and I both work and have three small children ages seven, six and one. The convenience of having access to instant, 24/7 drone delivery is priceless,” said Reno resident Michael, who received the Flirtey delivery. “It’s amazing that a flying robot just delivered us food and drinks in a matter of minutes.”

In the future, both Flirtey and 7-Eleven expect drone packages to include “everyday essentials” such as batteries and sunscreen.

Flirtey’s collaboration with 7-Eleven will advance the startup’s research towards integrating drones into the National Airspace System. Flirtey also partnered with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) to refine its delivery technology and packaging, a partnership made possible by the fact that the state of Nevada is pushing to be an innovation hub for drone technology.

Chris Walach, director for operations for NIAS said, “This delivery required special flight planning, risk analysis, and detailed flight procedures ensuring residential safety and privacy were equally integrated.”

This latest partnership marks a string of commercial deliveries that are pushing the startup closer to its goal of creating the world’s largest delivery process for humanitarian, online retail, and food delivery industries.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to have 7-Eleven, the largest convenience chain in the world, embracing new technologies and working with us at Flirtey to make drone delivery a reality for customers all over the world,” said Flirtey CEO, Matt Sweeny.

“This is just the first step in our collaboration with 7-Eleven. 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.”

In June, Flirtey conducted test flights at the invitation of disaster preparedness to demonstrate how drones can provide life-saving aid to victims of a disaster.

Flirtey delivered medical samples between a medical relief camp on the coastline of New Jersey and a test facility on a vessel offshore. The event was all about educating the private sector on humanitarian responses into the integration of drones into the national airspace.

Now the drone startup has now turned its attention to the general public and with 7-Eleven aims to demonstrate how food delivery can create the ultimate convenience for customers.

“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,” said chief merchandising officer of 7-Eleven, Jesus H. Delgado-Jenkins.

“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.”

Since its conception in 2013, Flirtey has been rapidly developing and refining its technology and delivery services. Flirtey was the first company to conduct an FAA-approved delivery in the US and also the first to perform a fully autonomous drone delivery to a home in the US.

In March this year, Flirtey delivered a package containing bottled water, emergency food, and a first aid kit to a “residential setting” in the town of Hawthorne. Sweeny said at the time that the delivery was a step forward to achieving the team’s goal of saving lives and changing lifestyles with its technology.

Although new commercial drone flying rules have been released by the FAA, the rules still don’t allow for flying drones at night or outside the line of sight of their operators. Until the rules are again changed and more red tape is removed, the commercialisation of drone deliveries remains impractical in a legal sense.

Image: Flirtey Drone. Source: Sky News.