If drones can deliver Starbucks, what’s taking so long for packages?

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If you live in Fayetteville, North Carolina, you can now have Starbucks delivered — not quite in your backyard yet, but soon perhaps.

An Israeli drone company, Flytrex, has been testing drone delivery in North Carolina, delivering items from restaurants in the Holly Springs Towne Center to a pickup location within a five-minute drone flight. Starbucks, Dairy Queen Blizzards, pastries and light meals are among the menu items.

“It’s more gentle than most human couriers,” Yariv Bash, co-founder and CEO of Flytrex, told Modern Shipper.

Flytrex is among the growing number of drone providers and companies that are hoping to cash in on a delivery market that is expected to reach more than $6 billion by 2026. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in late December released new regulations that will expand the opportunity for drone delivery tests.

The FAA rules require unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to broadcast identification or location information and allow operators of small drones to fly over people and vehicles, and at night under certain conditions. In January, the FAA approved a waiver request by American Robotics Inc. that allows the company to fly drones beyond the visual line of sight of operators, something that is not currently allowed under existing regulations.

Read more: Archer Aviation takes billion-dollar eVTOL order from United Airlines

The ability to extend flight distances beyond sight lines is important to the growth of drone delivery and represents a big opportunity for e-commerce businesses. Bash noted scenarios in which local grocers can benefit from drone delivery. In fact, he believes that drone grocery delivery is easier than package delivery. Retailers, Bash noted, are still struggling with inventory transparency while grocers turn goods over quicker so items are usually in stock, making on-demand delivery more viable.

“The drone was designed from day one for retail and food delivery applications,” Bash said. “If I told FedEx (NYSE: FDX) to deliver a pizza to your house, it sounds very weird, even though FedEx delivers to your house. This was purpose-built for these types of applications.”

The competition in the space is fierce.

Walmart (NYSE: WMT) will begin a drone delivery pilot with customers along the Arkansas and Missouri state line this summer in cooperation with drone provider Zipline International. Air Canada (TSX: AC) is supporting e-commerce drone deliveries in Canada; Japan Airlines is also involved in a drone delivery project; and Astral Aviation in Kenya has set up a drone division. Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has been testing drone delivery, as is UPS (NYSE: UPS).

Even truck manufacturer Workhorse Group (NASDAQ: WKHS) is trying to benefit from drones. Its electric trucks are being designed with a drone atop the vehicle, allowing a delivery driver to hand-deliver packages while the drone delivers additional items.

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Source: Brian Straight

Photo credit: Press



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