Yesterday, Israeli-based drone delivery solutions firm Flytrex and North Carolina-based charter flight company Causey Aviation announced that they have received FAA Approval to begin food delivery by drone in North Carolina. And while grocery or restaurant delivery may not be lifesaving missions, they are critical to the drone industry.
Establishing a Standard
The FAA approval is for both the drone company Flytrex and what is described in the press release as a drone services company – but has in fact been a charter flight company for more than 50 years – Causey Aviation. (The company now has a new website and a subsidiary name in addition to its charter services site – Causey Aviation Unmanned, Inc. (CAU)). CAU’s value to the project, however, is that they have been safely operating a professional aviation service for more than 50 years in the manned aircraft space – which makes them uniquely qualified to establish the safety standards and operational procedures to integrate into the airspace.
That the combined team received the authorization makes sense – and is consistent with FAA precedent. Earlier this year, the FAA granted Google spin-off Wing certification as an certified air carrier for unmanned vehicles, indicating that the standard for operating a commercial drone delivery service will be similar to that of operating a manned aircraft aviation service. That’s a high bar, but even a high standard makes achievement possible: no standard at all makes broad implementation of drone delivery in the U.S. impossible.
Safety System Standards
Flytrex is one of the few companies authorized to operate in suburban areas; previous testing of drone delivery has been largely in rural communities. That’s becasue Flytrex has developed a self-triggered parachute recovery system that meets the ASTM standards. FAA has recently granted several waivers for regular operations of drones over people for systems equipped with parachute recovery systems, indicating that parachute solutions are an acceptable and effective means of mitigating risk.
“Regulation is crucial to the future of widespread drone delivery, both for safe operations and public acceptance, which is why we have been working diligently with the FAA to adhere to the highest standards of safety,” said Yariv Bash, CEO and Co-Founder of Flytrex. “We continually strive to reach new heights when it comes to advancing commercial drone use around the world. That is why we are thrilled to have been chosen to work so closely with the FAA to help this pilot take off. This is just the beginning as we expand the possibilities of sky-bound delivery.”
Finally – but perhaps most importantly – food delivery by drone is critical to helping the industry influence public perception of drone operations. Unlike drone inspections or the many other industrial uses of drone technology, food delivery has the potential to reach and serve a broad audience. If more people in communities around the country have the opportunity to receive services from drone technology – and see that the operations are both convenient and safe – other commercial drone operations will meet with fewer barriers to adoption.
The Flytrex and CAU Project
From a Flytrex press release:
Per the approved proposal, Flytrex drones will operate along one predetermined delivery route, connecting a distribution center at Holly Springs Towne Center, a shopping destination owned and operated by Kite Realty Group, with a single delivery point: Ting Park, a nearby outdoor sports and recreation hub. The flight route crosses over Route 55, and will fly primarily over unpopulated areas, avoiding flights over adjacent neighborhoods. CAU Drone Delivery Operations for compensation under this provision will be conducted in accordance with Part 107 Rules and within Line of Sight of the Remote Pilot in Command (RPIC).
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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