Flirtey made its first impression on the drone industry by way of a series of media-friendly announcements that amounted to a lot of hype, but not necessarily a lot of action.
The drone delivery started came onto the scene by constantly announcing delivery “firsts” including the first-ship-to-shore drone delivery, the first FAA-approved drone delivery to a customer’s home, the first urban drone delivery. Flirtey also announced the first-ever drone pizza delivery service, but it could only deliver to buildings within 1 mile of a single store in Whangaparaoa, New Zealand, and more than eight months after the initially launch, had only made four deliveries. That got the general public (who is used to a 24-hour news cycle where they hear about announcements but don’t pay attention to any follow-up) excited, but often left the drone industry rolling their eyes.
But Flirtey this year has proven itself as more than just a media stunt, but rather a company capable of delivering serious drone capabilities.
The company this month unveiled its own drone called the Flirtey Eagle. The delivery drone uses a tether to lower packages to the ground. Thus the drone remains suspended in the air the whole time, preventing the need to develop any drone landing infrastructure. Once the package is delivered, the drone then retracts the tether and flies back to a Flirtey base.
Flirtey said it can operate in 95% of wind and weather conditions.
For the release, Flirtey had the drone deliver automated external defibrillator (AED) deliveries to customer homes. Their launch was unveiled alongside Senator Cortez Masto (D-NV) at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Instead of pizzas that headlines can get behind, Flirtey made its drones a bit more necessary, delivering something that could save lives, which politicians and the scrutinizing public can get behind. Whether there’s more money, need or support for drones delivering medical supplies (as opposed to food), companies are increasingly emphasizing how important drones are to society. Google has taken similar steps, pivoting from delivering Chipotle burritos to delivering Walgreens products. Zipline has seen success in delivering medical devices, including getting backing by U2 frontman (and increasingly humanitarian benefactor) Bono.
Along with the Eagle announcement, Flirtey also announced Flirtey Portal, a takeoff and landing platform that fits into a parking space. That component indicates that Flirtey is capable of scaling with door-to-door delivery operations, something Flirtey has struggled to do in the past.
Flirtey as a company has grown dramatically over the past few years, adding former employees from NASA, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and SpaceX to its team. Flirtey has also been heavily involved in drone regulation tests in partnership with the government. Flirtey and the City of Reno were selected into the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP). The program paired governments up with private companies to test types of drone flights that are currently banned in the U.S., including flying drones at night, flying over people and, yes, package delivery.
For that program, Flirtey and the City of Reno partnered with REMSA, a local emergency medical services provider, to deliver AEDs. That program was unique in that Flirtey secured approval to fly their drones beyond visual line of site.