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The future of customer experience came to the back yard of a family in Reno, Nevada on July 22, and it brought doughnuts. The 7-Eleven convenience store chain and the unmanned aerial vehicle startup Flirtey teamed up for the first fully autonomous drone delivery to a U.S. customer’s home. On-demand drone delivery is expected to become an important option to bolster businesses’ customer engagement and loyalty programs in the future.
The 7-Eleven/Flirtey flight advanced research toward integrating drones into the National Airspace System, said Chris Walach, Director of Operations for the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS), which also was a partner in the experiment.
“This delivery required special flight planning, risk analysis, and detailed flight procedures ensuring residential safety and privacy were equally integrated,” Walach said.
In Reno, two deliveries of 7-Eleven hot and cold food items were successfully completed. The items were placed in a Flirtey container and flown autonomously using the Global Positioning System (GPS) to customers’ homes.
The drone hovered over the back yard and lowered the first package to the customer within minutes of it being ordered.
The cargo included Slurpee® drinks, a chicken sandwich, doughnuts, hot coffee, and candy. Flirtey and 7-Eleven both expect deliveries of “everyday essentials” like batteries and sunscreen will be common in the future.
“My wife and I both work and have three small children ages 7, 6, and 1, so the convenience of having access to instant, 24/7 drone delivery is priceless,” said Reno resident Michael, who received the Flirtey delivery. “It’s amazing that a flying robot just delivered us food and drinks in a matter of minutes.”
The flight, which happened on the 89th anniversary of 7-Eleven’s founding, also placed Flirtey closer to its vision of refining the delivery process for humanitarian, online retail and food delivery organizations.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to have 7-Eleven, the largest convenience chain in the world, embracing new technologies and working with us at Flirtey to make drone delivery a reality for customers all over the world,” Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeny said. “This is just the first step in our collaboration with 7-Eleven. Flirtey’s historic drone deliveries to date have been stepping stones to store-to-home drone delivery, and today is a giant leap toward a not-too-distant future where we are delivering you convenience on demand.”
Flirtey and 7-Eleven plan to expand drone delivery tests, said Jesus H. Delgado-Jenkins, 7-Eleven EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer.
“Drone delivery is the ultimate convenience for our customers and these efforts create enormous opportunities to redefine convenience,” Delgado-Jenkins said. “This delivery marks the first time a retailer has worked with a drone delivery company to transport immediate consumables from store to home. In the future, we plan to make the entire assortment in our stores available for delivery to customers in minutes. Our customers have demanding schedules, are on-the-go 24/7 and turn to us to help navigate the challenges of their daily lives. We look forward to working with Flirtey to deliver to our customers exactly what they need, whenever and wherever they need it.”
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval praised the experiment.
“I congratulate Nevada-based company Flirtey on making history yet again – this time by collaborating with the world’s largest convenience retailer to complete the first store-to-home drone delivery in Reno, Nev.,” Sandoval said. “Through our FAA Test Site designation, Flirtey has cemented Nevada’s position as the leader in the commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) industry and I look forward to seeing them continue to grow and bring jobs to our region.”
Based in Irving, Texas, 7-Eleven operates, franchises, and licenses nearly 60,000 stores in 17 countries.
Flirtey is an independent drone delivery service that is working with NASA, the University of Nevada-Reno, the New Jersey Test Site and Virginia Tech to create the technology and logistics systems for a mass-market drone delivery network. It is the first company to successfully complete a ship-to-shore delivery in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
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