by Mark Ollig
The first successful home delivery using a fully-autonomous unmanned aircraft (drone) was the subject of last week’s column.
This FAA-approved test was carried out in the urban region of Hawthorne, southeast of Reno, NV.
The contents of the delivery package transported by this unmanned aerial vehicle included: medical supplies, food, and bottled water.
This week, dear readers, you’re in for a treat.
I contacted Flirtey, the company which accomplished this historic drone delivery.
Their CEO, Matt Sweeny was kind enough to answer the following questions.
“B&B: I am very impressed about Flirtey’s mentioning the drones’ use for humanitarian scenarios; such as getting relief supplies into cut-off, populated areas during natural disasters.
MS: Thank you – at Flirtey, our vision is to reinvent the delivery process for humanitarian, online retail, and food delivery industries. To illustrate our dedication to humanitarian scenarios, this recent delivery included bottled water, emergency food and a first aid kit.
B&B: What was the distance the drone traveled during the Hawthorne, NV test under the control of the autonomous delivery system technology?
MS: This delivery flight was about half a mile and it’s important to note that for this particular delivery, we were optimizing for precision delivery in an urban environment – our drones can, of course, travel much longer ranges. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to test our technology in an urban environment with houses, power lines, and trees to navigate – and our technology performed exactly as we would have hoped.
B&B: Is there any detailed technical information about the autonomous software operating system, and the six-rotor drone itself; such as its dimensions, on-board navigation system, package weight limits it can carry, and what material/means was used to carry the package of supplies?
MS: The Flirtey delivery drone is constructed from carbon fiber, aluminum, and 3D printed components. It is a lightweight, autonomous, and electrically-driven unmanned aerial vehicle. It conducts deliveries by lowering the package in a controlled manner with the drone hovering in place. Built-in safety features include low battery return to safe location, auto return to home in case of strong winds, low GPS signal or communication loss.
B&B: What is being planned for the next Flirtey delivery test situation?
MS: We’re currently focusing on applying what we’ve learned from this flight to our current drone delivery technology. R&D is a major focus of the FAA-designated Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Sites, and this latest operation has given us a significant amount of information to be used towards future tests and operations. From here, we will continue to develop and refine our technology. With collaborations that include NASA and the University of Nevada, Reno, we’re leading the industry in autonomous drone technology, drone safety systems, and advanced delivery technology; and look forward to delivering direct to customer houses in the not too distant future.”
I want to thank Matt Sweeny for his time, and wish him and everyone at Flirtey, the best of luck in this new and exciting aerial delivery service.
“Real-time delivery by flying robots. Anytime. Anywhere.” These words are boldly written on Flirtey’s website homepage.
Possibly the next time I hear the whirling sound of rotor blades coming from the sky over my house, I’ll look up and see a Flirtey delivery drone.
A video of their delivery drone in action, along with a message from CEO Matt Sweeny and others involved with the drone delivery company, can be found on Flirtey’s website: http://flirtey.com.
Follow Flirtey’s continuing progress via their @Fly_Flirtey Twitter user handle.
Keep an eye on your humble, drone-reporting columnist at: @bitsandbytes.
(Photos used with permission from Flirtey.)