The Reno-based drone company completed the first multi-drone delivery demonstration with a single pilot un the Federal Aviation Administration’s Drone Integration Pilot Program. The test was successfully performed in front of FAA representatives and put the company on track to approval for its drone delivery program. They hope to send consumer products by air, including FedEx packages, medical equipment and supplies.
“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,” Sweeney said. “We’re talking less than 24 months.”
Last year, the City of Reno and additional partners including AirMap and Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority (REMSA) joined forces with Flirtey to apply for fast-track designation under the FAA and Department of Transportation’s federal drone testing initiative. They were just one of 10 applicants across the country selected for the highly competitive pilot program. They even beat out competing applications from Nevada like Amazon.
Flirtey then received a waiver from the federal government to do the multi-drone test, meaning that one pilot is successfully controlling many drones. This test is a huge achievement in drone technology because it proves that the delivery service can be done easily and safely expanded to reach more consumers.
“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 multiple drones were actually the newest from Flirtey’s next-generation and can carry heavier payloads for longer distances. They delivered automated external defibrillators during the test, which showed the potential for life-saving technology to be delivered to someone’s doorstep in case of an emergency. This could also be useful for things such as disaster relief, especially for those that are stuck in areas where first responders and rescue workers can’t easily access them.
“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.”
Reno Mayor Hilary Schieve gave a statement on the life-saving technology following the 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.”
Now that the first successful test is out of the way, Flirtey will continue to work with the FAA and transportation department in order to secure whatever other approvals they need to get the delivery service started. They hope to start in Reno and then expand across the company, partnering with such companies as FedEx to ensure great delivery service. The fast-track program could mean that the days of having pizza, clothing and lattes delivered by drone are just a short while away.
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