It’s a warm summer weekend. You’re sitting on a lounge chair in your backyard, reading that novel you’ve been looking forward to. Suddenly, you have a craving for iced coffee and a pastry.
Now you have a dilemma. Do you put your book down, put on your shoes, get into your car and drive to the nearest Starbucks? Do you order takeaway? That could take a while.
Open the app, place an order, and within a few minutes, a drone is hovering above your backyard. It releases a cable with a Flytrex delivery box or bag attached. It’s slowly lowered to the ground, and you take out your coffee and pastry. The cable returns to the drone, which flies off into the sunset. No need to tip, and your kids will love it.
It sounds like science fiction, but it’s already happening in Iceland and the US.
“Finally, I got to order and pay on an app for real restaurant food delivered to me by drone,” said Mark Sears, CEO of CloudFactory in Durham, North Carolina, celebrating his 15-minute Flytrex delivery on LinkedIn and labeling it a #gamechanger.
Flytrex CEO Yariv Bash says drone delivery is cheaper, faster and safer than traditional delivery.
“The drones fly in straight lines so you get your food a lot faster, and it’s hotter and fresher than a human courier,” Bash says. “It’s also much greener than using vehicles. Our drone weighs about 30 pounds versus a one-ton car needed to make deliveries.”
Food deliveries are just the start. In 2020, Flytrex began a pilot project delivering grocery items from Walmart in Fayetteville and Raeford, North Carolina, testing whether drones could safely, quickly and conveniently deliver items to customers – from picking and packing to takeoff and arrival. It began as the coronavirus pandemic had increased interest in contact-free delivery for everything from toiletries to food. The company pioneered technology to prevent food and drink from spilling or fragile items like eggs from breaking while they are lowered from a height of more than 80 feet.
“My wife and I have been using Flytrex since mid-October and everything’s been good,” says Tim Kratzke, a network engineer who lives in Holly Springs, near Raleigh, North Carolina. “It’s a cool new concept and very convenient to use.”
At first, there was only one chicken wings restaurant that offered drone delivery, but now half a dozen outlets offer the service. The first time Kratzke ordered a delivery, a member of the Flytrex team came along to make sure there were no hitches.
“We have had a much better experience with Flytrex than with more traditional services,” he said. “The food has arrived hot, and nothing has spilled. I’m not sure how they’re doing it, but it works.”
For now, the restaurant or store is absorbing the cost of the service. The customer pays the same as if they ordered takeout and came to pick up.
Deliveries are limited by weight and distance. At this stage, the Flytrex drones can carry a payload of about 6.6 pounds (3 kilograms) – about four burgers and fries, and the Federal Aviation Authority, which regulates all commercial aircraft, currently limits the drones to a one-mile radius from their base station.
Bash founded Flytrex at the end of 2013. Previously, after a decade in defense R&D in Israel, he was the co-founder and CEO of SpaceIL, which in April 2019 became the first private company to fly an interplanetary spacecraft into the Moon’s orbit.
Flytrex launched its first drone deliveries in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 2016. The drones may look like something you could buy in a toy store, but they are professional models – specially constructed by the company and approved by the FAA.
“We go through the same process as Boeing does when they are certifying a new airplane system,” Bash notes.
The FAA received 200 proposals to test the regulatory aspects of drone delivery. Flytrex was one of only 10 chosen. In thousands of deliveries in the past five years, the company has not had a single accident. While the drones are completely autonomous, there is a fully trained human controller supervising the deliveries and standing by just in case.
The drones are currently manufactured in North Carolina, with plans to open a production facility in Tel Aviv. The company hopes to expand its three delivery stations in North Carolina to several dozen by the end of 2022.
“The potential is almost limitless – drone systems are being adopted around the world faster than anyone may have anticipated,” Bash says, setting his sights on the 80 million single-family homes in the US. “Flytrex currently operates the largest-scale drone-delivery system of food and goods to backyards in the US, and is only growing.”
Investors seem to believe in the model. Flytrex has raised around $60 million, including a current $40 million round, in which investors can still participate through OurCrowd, the Jerusalem-based funding platform.
For more information about investing in Flytrex via OurCrowd, click HERE.