Last week, we told you about Amazon's first successful drone delivery in just 13 minutes after the item was ordered. Although technically true, investigations show that the drone package's destination was a mere 700 meters away from Amazon's drone testing site. No wonder it was that quick!
As evidenced by this "delivery," Amazon's drone delivery system, dubbed "Prime Air," is still in its testing phase and it may still not be ready for real commercial deployment.
One other company, however, is one-upping Amazon and is claiming that its drone delivery system is already doing regular commercial item drops ahead of everyone else.
7-Eleven, the world's largest convenience chain, in cooperation with Flirtey, a company that specializes in drone deliveries, announced Tuesday that it has successfully delivered 77 separate orders with the use of flying robots in November.
The items, which were an assortment of food, beverages, and over-the-counter medicines, were delivered straight to the homes of a dozen customers in Reno, Nevada, who all lived within a mile from the 7-Eleven test store.
The customers ordered their items via a special shopping app, which also gave them updates on the delivery drone's progress, such as the time it was loaded with the goods, when it left the store and its arrival time.
The delivery drone used GPS to locate its drop-off destinations and upon arrival, it hovered and lowered the goods via a tethered box. According to Flirtey, deliveries only took less than 10 minutes, on the average, from the time the order was placed. Upon delivery completion, the drone returned to its 7-Eleven base.
Although the drones were autonomous, US Federal Aviation Authority regulations still require drones to be at the line of sight of an operator and a Flirtey drone pilot was always monitoring the flights to take over when needed.
November may be their most successful drone delivery month yet, but it is not the first time 7-Eleven and Flirtey delivered items via drone. Back in July, a Flirtey drone successfully delivered a 7-Eleven order of a chicken sandwich, donuts, candy, Slurpees and hot coffee to a customer (video below). Both companies say that it was the first drone delivery ever on U.S. soil.
7-Eleven plans to expand its drone delivery services and make it a regular service in the next few years. Although the line of sight requirement is still a major obstacle for these budding delivery drone programs, including Amazon Prime and Google/Alphabet's Project Wing, successful commercial tests like these may relax these regulations in the future.