After months of testing drone delivery to designated pickup locations, Flytrex is now able to take the next step — delivering to the customer’s yard.
The Israeli-based company announced Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had approved its request to fly drones over people, allowing expansion of a pilot program from its current constructs to include delivery of thousands of items to customers’ yards.
“The FAA approval is important to expanding on-demand drone delivery throughout the U.S. in compliance with the highest possible safety standards,” said Yariv Bash, co-founder and CEO of Flytrex. “Through this expansion, we will be able to glean valuable insight into usage and customer preferences, allowing us to further tailor our offering to meet consumer needs. With the ongoing help of the FAA, drone delivery will soon become the rule rather than the exception.”
The expansion will take place in partnership with Causey Aviation Unmanned, Flytrex’s partner in the test, and a number of retailers participating in the Fayetteville, North Carolina, program, including Walmart (NYSE: WMT).
“Flytrex shares our passion and commitment to bringing the immense benefits of unmanned aerial delivery to the public, responsibly and safely,” said Jeff Causey, founder and CEO of Causey Aviation Unmanned. “We are thrilled to announce this benchmark approval with them and to continue providing swift and safe deliveries to an expanding number of households in North Carolina and beyond.”
Drone deliveries of items from Walmart as well as from restaurants in the Holly Springs Towne Center to a designated pickup location within a five-minute drone flight have been taking place since September 2020. Starbucks, Dairy Queen Blizzards, pastries and light meals are among the food items in the program. Customers place orders through the Flytrex app.
The new FAA approval expands the delivery area, although the drones must remain within visual sight of the remote operator.
Bash previously told Modern Shipper that Flytrex was focused on perfecting suburban drone deliveries.
Watch: Flytrex’s Yariv Bash on DroneWaves
“We’re meant to sell to the suburbs and private houses,” he said. “You don’t see too many [topography] changes in the suburbs — nobody is erecting skyscrapers. We believe that drone deliveries will enable you to enjoy that ubiquitous kind of instant delivery. If you are making dinner and you need tomatoes, you can buy them now and have them delivered quickly.”
Drones must go through a rigorous FAA process that includes many of the same airworthiness requirements that commercial aircraft must meet, Bash said.
Flytrex participated in the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP) from 2018 to 2020 and its subsequent initiative, BEYOND, to work with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) as well as the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) and the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) to help tackle the remaining challenges of unmanned aircraft system integration.
“Being ‘first in flight,’ North Carolina is renowned for its contribution to aviation history. Today, we continue that illustrious record by contributing to unmanned aviation history,” said Bobby Walston, NCDOT’s aviation director. “In working with our UAS partners over the past several years, we’ve seen the impressive advances these companies have made spearheading on-demand drone delivery in the U.S., and this latest groundbreaking approval is another milestone in that journey.”
In March, Flytrex secured $9.3 million in funding to expand its operations. Total funding for the company is now $20.3 million after it received $3 million in a Series A on Jan. 3, 2017, and an additional $8 million in a Series B on Jan. 8, 2019, according to Crunchbase. The latest round includes $8 million led by existing investors Benhamou Global Ventures (BGV) and European venture capital firm btov and $1.3 million in the form of an Israeli Innovation Authority grant.