Flirtey Complete First Flights Under Drone Integration Pilot Program

/Flirtey Complete First Flights Under Drone Integration Pilot Program

Reno-based drone company Flirtey has completed the first multi-drone delivery demonstration with a single pilot under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Drone Integration Pilot Program.

The successful test, which was performed in front of FAA representatives, puts the company on track to gain approval for its drone delivery program and start sending consumer products — including Fed Ex packages — plus medical equipment and supplies by air.

“This program runs us through the end of 2020, so we expect that we’ll be regularly saving lives and improving consumer lifestyles through drone delivery in Reno even before that,” Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeney said. “We’re talking less than 24 months.”

Smooth flying so far

Flirtey joined forces last year with the City of Reno and partners such as AirMap and Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority to apply for fast-track designation under the FAA and Department of Transportation’s federal drone testing initiative. The Flirtey group was one of 10 applicants from across the country selected in the highly competitive pilot program, beating out a competing application from the state of Nevada that included heavy hitters such as Amazon.

The selection allowed Flirtey to receive a waiver from the federal government to do the multi-drone test, which demonstrated that one pilot can successfully control several drones. The test is an important achievement because it shows that drone delivery can be easily — and safely — expanded, Sweeney said.

“One of the key milestones that we needed to achieve to allow us to scale the program is to have one Flirtey pilot operate multiple drones at the same time,” Sweeney said. “To have the FAA come out to see us flying multiple drones and delivering packages is an important proof point that shows this program is succeeding.”

The test used Flirtey’s newest next-generation drone, which can carry heavier payloads for longer distances. The company demonstrated delivery of automated external defibrillators during the test to show the life-saving potential of drone technology in addition to its commercial applications.

Drones and disaster relief

The life-saving uses of drones also can include disaster relief, particularly for helping people who might be stuck in areas that responders and rescue workers can’t easily access.

“Once we have this drone infrastructure in place, we can work with our partners to deliver water, food and medicine to people who need it when you have a natural disaster and roads are down,” Sweeney said. “You can have drones positioned to fly in from rooftops and deliver insulin, so it has the potential to leapfrog traditional emergency services and save lives.”

The life-saving applications of the technology were touted by Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve in her statement following the successful multi-drone test.

“The City of Reno is proud to partner with Flirtey, the FAA, and our local IPP partners to test drone delivery of AEDs to Washoe County residents,” Schieve said. “Public safety is our top priority, and the use of drones to provide life-saving AED technology to cardiac patients could reduce the number of deaths from cardiac arrest in northern Nevada.”

With the success of its first multi-drone test, Flirtey says it will continue to work with the FAA and transportation department in order to secure the necessary approvals that will allow the company to start drone delivery, Sweeney said.

The goal is to start offering delivery by drone in Reno and expand it across the country. Flirtey has a partnership with FedEx, for example, that will allow the company to deliver packages by air or have its drones ready to go from FedEx locations.

If the fast-track program continues to go smoothly, the days of having pizza, Slurpees and defibrillators delivered by drone could come much sooner than most people think. Sweeney offered a simple description when asked what phase drone delivery is at.

“Crawl, walk, run, fly is what we call it,” Sweeney said. “We’re definitely past crawl.”

Source: Reno Gazette Journal

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