Drones are practically purpose-built for delivery, which is one reason the unmanned vehicle logistics and transportation market topped an estimated $29.06 billion this year. Already, retailers like Amazon and 7-Eleven are piloting autonomous delivery in select markets, betting on a future in which drones fulfill orders within hours (or even minutes).
Israeli drone company Flytrex argues that this future is already here. The startup today announced it is teaming up with King’s Wall Course and Ease Drones to launch what it’s calling the first fully operational “golf course drone delivery system” in the U.S.
Here’s how it’ll work: When patrons at King’s Walk Golf Course in North Dakota start feeling peckish, they’ll download the Flytrex Golf app for their platform of choice, where they’ll see a full list of available menu items from the nearby Eagle’s Crest Bar & Grill. After customers choose from a list of geofenced drop-off sites and place their order, the clubhouse will receive it, package it, and hand it off to a Flytrex technician. From that point on, the drone — with the order in tow — will fly toward the designated pickup zone, remaining airborne until the intended recipient confirms they’re nearby.
Flytrex said that to comply with existing legislation, the delivery drones — which were approved by North Dakota’s Grand Forks Park District earlier this year — will remain within line of sight and fly over routes without people below. They’ll also provide real-time status updates via the aforementioned app.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Rule 107 prohibits the use of commercial drones within 500 feet of “non-participating” people and structures, making a wide-open golf course a perfect fit for a food delivery pilot, Flytrex CEO Yariv Bash explained. (The FAA in March kicked off a commercial drone integration program in 10 states, but the scale of the program is limited.)
“The sky’s the limit when it comes to drone capabilities,” Bash said. “From delivering snacks and beverages to golfers to assisting in search and rescue operations to performing key inspections, drones are being incorporated into all aspects of life … Golf is a sport with deep-rooted traditions, and there’s great interest in using technology to enhance this experience.”
It’s not the first time Flytrex has applied its cloud-based drone management system, insurance, and maintenance expertise to the food delivery business. In August 2017, the company teamed up with online marketplace Aha to roll out an on-demand service in Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik. Last month, it expanded those deliveries to 13 new routes in residential areas.
Bash said Flytrex Golf is the first of “many” projects planned in the U.S., including an FAA-approved pilot program in North Carolina scheduled to launch later this year.
“We’re making delivery as instant as ordering,” Bash said.
Competitors are hot on its heels. In May, Uber announced plans to deliver food by drone in San Diego, and Alibaba’s Ele.me was cleared early this summer by local authorities to use drones to deliver meals along 17 routes in Shanghai’s Jinshan Industrial Park.
Flytrex was founded in 2013 and has raised $3 million to date from angel investors, according to nonprofit funding tracker Start-Up Nation Central.