Restaurant meal delivery by drone always seems to be just over the horizon, as it were. While there are a number of tests from different companies going on around the world, delivery by drone just doesn’t quite feel like a real thing yet.
You wouldn’t get that from speaking with Yariv Bash, Co-Founder and CEO of Flytrex, a Tel Aviv-based drone startup. Bash is very optimistic about the future of drone delivery, obviously, and says his company will be powering drone deliveries for thousands of customers by early next year.
Flytrex has already done thousands of drone deliveries in Reykjavik, Iceland since 2018. Here in the U.S., at the King’s Walk golf course in North Dakota, it offers drone service now as well (“No more waiting around for the beverage cart.”), according to Flytrex’s website. The company is also currently prepping another pilot in North Carolina.
The Flytrex drone is a hex-copter capable of carrying a 6.5 pound payload (enough to feed a family of four, said Bash), up to 40 m.p.h., with a range of six miles. The system is really built for suburban sprawl, and uses a tether to lower deliveries down to people when it arrives at its destination. Bash said that while a human driver can typically only make two to three deliveries an hour, a Flytrex drone operator can make up to 15.
“But the interesting part is on the inside,” said Bash about his drones. “There are multiple levels of redundancy. It can sustain motor loss, battery loss, communication failure. If everything fails, there is an independent parachute.”
Safety measures like those are top of mind in any conversation about drone delivery. It’s one thing if a rover robotstops dead on the sidewalk, quite another if a drone stops working above your house (or head).
And while the COVID pandemic may be accelerating the adoption of other contactless forms of delivery (like robots), Bash said that all stakeholders are taking the safety of drones very seriously. “The FAA is not willing to lower the bar on safety,” Bash said “but it is willing to work a lot harder with you.”
While safety is a priority, Bash also said that other regulators are excited about drone delivery. “On the local governmental levels, so far, everyone is really happy and wants us to start operating in their areas,” he said.
Flytrex is just one of many companies in various states of drone delivery around the world. There’s Manna in Ireland, Zomato in India, and Fling in Thailand. Domestically, Google Wing has been making deliveries in Virginia, Deuce Drone will be making grocery deliveries in Mobile, AL, Uber is supposed to be testing drone delivery this summer in San Diego.
Bash told me that his company will expand service by partnering in new markets with smaller, existing aviation companies that currently run their own manned flight companies. Those companies are already used to complex nature of flight and the regulatory issues surrounding them.
Though he didn’t spell out many details, Flytrex will also be partnering with unnamed companies to build out a marketplace of restaurants that will offer a drone delivery option. Those restaurants will charge an unspecified delivery fee that will be split between Flytrex and its aviation partner.
So far Flytrex has raised $11.5 million in funding. “We expect to be servicing hundreds of clients in a few months and then thousands early next year,” Bash said.
If Bash and Co. can make it work, drones will finally be crossing that far off horizon.