As a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps through Israel, Europe, and many parts of the US, millions are once again sheltering-in-place (or on lockdown, like in Israel) and taking precautions to physically distance from others.
For months now, this has meant a spectacular increase in e-commerce to purchase goods and essentials, and no-contact deliveries where bags and boxes are left outside homes by delivery people.
This article was originally posted by NoCamels.com. See Featured article: Artificial Intelligence.
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In this reality, Israeli company Flytrex, which specializes in food and consumer goods deliveries via drone systems, has a clear advantage.
Since launching in 2013, Flytrex has conducted drone delivery services in Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, in collaboration with AHA, one of the country’s largest e-commerce companies, and has delivered burgers and fries via drone to golfers at King’s Walk Golf Course outside Grand Forks, North Dakota. In 2018, it expanded its drone delivery services to North Carolina where it was selected by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to participate in its UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP) in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
Earlier this year in the midst of the first wave of the pandemic in the US, Flytrex launched a delivery service for shelter-in-place shoppers in Grand Forks, where people could select from some 100 Walmart items and have their orders delivered to homes’ backyards or designated areas in apartment complexes.
Now, Walmart is deepening the relationship with Flytrex, launching a service to deliver goods via drone to shoppers in North Carolina.
The Flytrex drone carries its delivery across the sky. Courtesy
“We’re starting a pilot together with Walmart in Fayetteville in North Carolina. A few select customers will be able to receive deliveries right to their backyards,” Flytrex CEO and co-founder Yariv Bash tells NoCamels in a phone interview.
Customers will use a mobile app to browse a catalog of some 200 items, everything from ketchup to toothpaste to diapers, Bash explains.
The automated drones will take off across the street from the Walmart location and will be able to travel a distance of up to three miles carrying a package weighing up to 6.6 pounds (2.9 kg). Flytrex drones can make drop-offs directly into backyards from 80 feet in the air.
flytrex golf course
Flytrex delivery by drone over the King’s Walk Golf Course. Courtesy
The drones are operated using a smart and easy control dashboard, which will help the company gain valuable insight into the customer and associate experience, from picking and packing to takeoff and delivery, Walmart Senior VP Customer Product Tom Ward wrote in a company statement.
Walmart also “hopes to boots its delivery business in post-pandemic days, when it will be more vital than ever. That still feels like a bit of science fiction, but we’re at a point where we’re learning more and more about the technology that is available and how we can use it to make our customers’ lives easier,” Ward added.
SEE ALSO: Israel’s Flytrex Pilots Drone Deliveries Of Essential Goods For Shelter-In-Place US Shoppers
With so many consumers still cautious about heading to a physical store, Walmart has stepped up its efforts to compete with companies like Amazon in online sales and pickup and delivery options. Last year, the company rolled out a next-day delivery service to match a similar offering from Amazon. Last month, its began offering a Walmart+ subscription membership program that promises free same-day deliveries on groceries and general merchandise.
In late August, Amazon received federal approval to begin testing commercial deliveries of its Prime Air drone fleet. The certification came under Part 135 of FAA regulations, which gave Amazon the ability to carry property on small drones “beyond the visual line of sight” of the operator. UPS also received the go-ahead from the Federal Aviation Administration to do the same.
Now Walmart is stepping up its efforts to do the same.
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“In the next two months, we hope to reach a much bigger geography. This could help hundreds if not thousands of families,” Bash says.
Bash also indicates that before the company can really move forward, it must be approved by the FAA in a process that is essentially the same one that a Boeing 787 jetliner would need to clear before it flies.
“We should be getting that by the end of the year,” Bash says.
Delivery within minutes
Bash founded Flytrex in 2013 with business partner Amit Regev, who was Bash’s flatmate while he was working for SpaceIL, the Israeli company with aspirations to land an Israeli spacecraft on the moon.
The company’s operations debuted its delivery services in August 2017 in Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, in collaboration with AHA, one of the country’s largest e-commerce companies.