A Flytrex drone out for delivery. (Flytrex)
Israeli drone delivery startup Flytrex received FAA approval to begin drone food delivery in Holly Springs, North Carolina, joining a small group of companies authorized to operate commercial deliveries via unmanned aircraft.
Flytrex and operating partner Causey Aviation Unmanned are starting small, creating a single predetermined delivery route that flies primarily over unpopulated areas — and won’t fly at night or over people.
The system, approved under the FAA’s Part 107 regulations for operating commercial drones under 55 pounds, will be operated within line-of-sight and using a remote pilot in command, according to Flytrex.
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“Regulation is crucial to the future of widespread drone delivery, both for safe operations and public acceptance, which is why we have been working diligently with the FAA to adhere to the highest standards of safety,” said Yariv Bash, CEO and Co-Founder of Flytrex.
In order to receive FAA approval to fly over people, Flytrex developed a parachute and underwent rigorous testing by Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research (NUAIR), validating its performance in the worst of circumstances. Recent crashes by Matternet drones in Switzerland keep safety concerns close to mind.
For the time being, Flytrex’s delivery drones will fly from a distribution center at Holly Springs Towne Center, to nearby Ting Park, an outdoor sports and recreation hub, where local residents can receive their orders via a proprietary wire-drop system that gently lowers packages to the ground from a height of 80 feet.
Packages are lowered via proprietary wire-drop system. (Flytrex)
The location perfectly illustrates what can be gained from accessing the airspace. The town center and its fifteen restaurants are less than half a mile from Ting Park, but it’s a ten-minute trip by car. Drone delivery cuts a 20-25-minute round-trip drive to a five-minute flight, according to Google Maps.
Flytrex has completed a limited pilot program in Ukraine, partnering with postal service UkrPoshta, and continues to make drone deliveries in Reykjavik, Iceland. The company has also delivered banking materials between branches of Credicorp Bank in Panama City, according to its YouTube channel.
“Last summer in Reykjavik, Flytrex completed hundreds of deliveries along 13 different routes across the city, serving nearly half the population,” a company spokesperson said. “Flights operate above the city and beyond the visual line of site,” which was achieved through altitude segregation of drone delivery flights from manned aviation.
“At the moment, Flytrex is working on integrating a new version of its system and aims to extend the possibility of home deliveries to every resident of Reykjavik in the coming months.”
Using $7.5 million in funding the company raised in January — bringing the company’s total capital raise to $10.5 million — Flytrex intends to scale up existing operations as well as provide seed money for the new route in North Carolina. The town council of Holly Springs approved the company’s proposal last year, according to VentureBeat’s Kyle Wiggers.
Operations in the United States are progressing at a slower pace than those abroad, as Flytrex works within the FAA’s drone Integration Pilot Program — and in partnership with the North Carolina DOT — to gain regulators’ trust and prove the safety of their system.
“Flytrex will officially launch drone deliveries in North Carolina in the coming months, and aims to eventually bring backyard deliveries to Holly Springs,” the company told Avionics. “This most recent stamp of approval from the FAA will enable Flytrex to demonstrate the true benefits of drone delivery within the framework of strict safety standards. As the pilot project advances and gains public confidence, this will help make it more viable to expand to other states and cities.”