Sun, Jul 24, 2016 - Page 16 News List

Drone test flights make aviation history

AFP, WASHINGTON

Facebook Inc CEO Mark Zuckerberg watches the first test flight of the firm’s Aquila drone in Yuma, Arizona, on June 28.

Photo: EPA / FACEBOOK HANDOUT

With a chicken sandwich, hot coffee and doughnuts, aviation history was made on Friday.

These were among the items in the first drone delivery on US soil approved by aviation officials, made by convenience retailer 7-Eleven Inc and the drone start-up Flirtey Inc.

The delivery took place in Reno, Nevada, with the items loaded into a special box for hot and cold food and flown to a local family.

“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,” Sweeny added.

Others, including US online giant Amazon.com Inc, are also working on drone deliveries, but this was the first in what could become a broader trend.

Flirtey is also working with drones to deliver relief supplies as part of humanitarian missions around the world.

However, it also hopes to expand its partnership with 7-Eleven for convenience deliveries. Friday’s delivery also included store candy and its Slurpee iced drinks.

“Drone delivery is the ultimate convenience for our customers and these efforts create enormous opportunities to redefine convenience,” 7-Eleven chief marketing officer Jesus 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,” he added.

The US Federal Aviation Administration this year updated rules allowing for some commercial drone operations in US airspace.

In related news, Facebook Inc on Thursday said it had completed a successful test flight of a solar-powered drone that it hopes will help it extend Internet connectivity to every corner of the planet.

Aquila, Facebook’s lightweight, high-altitude aircraft, flew at a few hundred meters for 96 minutes in Yuma, Arizona, CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post on his Facebook page.

The firm ultimately plans to have a fleet of drones that can fly for at least three months at a time at 18,290m and communicate with each other to deliver Internet access.

Google parent Alphabet Inc has also poured money into delivering Internet access to underserved areas through Project Loon, which aims to use a network of high-altitude balloons to made the Internet available to remote parts of the world.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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