7-Eleven, the world’s largest convenience store chain, shared new numbers from its drone delivery experiment today. Seventy-seven customers in Reno, Nev., have now received items ordered from 7-Eleven delivered to their doorsteps via drone.
All 77 flights were from one store to a dozen select customers who live within a mile of the shop. 7-Eleven has partnered with the drone maker Flirtey for its delivery pilot.
It marks the first regular commercial drone delivery service to operate in the United States, flying ahead of other, potentially bigger drone delivery projects that haven’t yet been able to take off in the U.S. — like Alphabet’s Project Wing and Amazon’s Prime Air, the latter of which only demonstrated its first delivery to a customer last week.
Amazon’s drone delivery was in the U.K. countryside. The 7-Eleven drone delivery service, on the other hand, is in Reno, a populated urban and suburban area, which poses a potentially more complex set of challenges.
Deliveries were completed, on average, less than ten minutes after the order was placed, according to a statement from Flirtey.
All the deliveries happened within the line of sight of the drone pilot, but the drones flew autonomously. Right now, it’s not legal in the U.S. to fly a drone beyond the line of sight of the operator without special permission from the Federal Aviation Administration.
But in October, NASA and the FAA conducted tests in Reno to research a low-altitude air traffic control system that would track and record drone flights without the pilot watching the drone in the air the entire time. Air traffic control for drones will be essential to figure out before drone delivery can happen outside of the line of sight of the operator, and then delivery programs like those from 7-Eleven, Amazon’s Prime Air or Alphabet’s Project Wing can happen at a larger scale.
Project Wing completed its first U.S. customer delivery test in September, ferrying Chipotle burritos to students at Virginia Tech. But that was a one-off trial, not a run of 77 drone deliveries over a month, like the Flirtey and 7-Eleven collaboration.
France Becomes First Federal Postal Service to Use Drones to Deliver Mail
The French postal service is beginning an experimental drone delivery program to deliver parcels on a nine mile route once a week. After the program gets approval from the French aviation regulatory authority, the federal postal service will be the first to ever use drone delivery on a regular route.
The drones used in the French postal service experiment have the capacity to fly up to 12 miles carrying about two pounds maximum, going around 19 miles per hour. They are also equipped with parachutes for safe emergency landing in case something disrupts the flight. The eventual goal is to reach rural or mountainous regions that are otherwise difficult and expensive to get to using cars.
The drone mail delivery program has been a project of the DPDgroup, Europe’s second largest international parcel delivery network, operating as a subsidiary under the French national postal service. The DPDgroup had been working on this program with Atechsys, a French drone company, since 2014 in the south of France.
“The first commercial line represents a new step in the program,” DPDgroup said in a press release. With the testing phase now over, the experimentation phase is all set to begin.
Still, while France may be the first to use drones in federal postage, it’s not the only one using drones for mail. Amazon’s drone delivery service made its first delivery last week in the United Kingdom. And in America, the U.S. Postal service took a survey to determine how people would feel about drones delivering packages to their homes. It turned out that more people were into the idea than against it.
Delivery by drone appears like it may happen faster than I thought. My fear remains: delivery of bombs by drone.
We are going to need anti-drone drones at some point.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock