Delivery Drone Unveiled by a Startup Joins Air Race for Commerce

By Alan Levin | September 10, 2019

A startup hoping to challenge more established drone delivery giants such as Inc. is unveiling a pod-like craft that it predicts could someday be used by stores to get products to customers within minutes.

The company, Flirtey Inc., also envisions entering the public health sphere, with plans to fly defibrillators directly to emergency scenes, the company said Monday in a press release.

“Flirtey’s latest technology makes life-saving and commercial drone delivery to homes in the United States an imminent reality,” company founder and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Sweeny said in the release.

While U.S. law currently doesn’t allow automated drone delivery flights and a low-level air-traffic system for the devices is still in development, companies like Flirtey, Amazon’s Prime Air and Wing, an offshoot of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, have all recently showed off new aircraft or announced new plans for demonstration flights.

Flirtey has dubbed its drone the Eagle and plans to introduce it at a press conference in Washington on Monday. It has a white body that can hold merchandise — or a defibrillator — and uses four propellers. As it hovers over a delivery spot, it drops a package to the ground with a tether.

Like some of its competitors, Flirtey is participating in a U.S.-sanctioned drone demonstration program and has obtained waivers from the Federal Aviation Administration allowing its operators to control more than one drone at a time and to fly beyond their sight in some limited circumstances.

Wing, which expects to begin a drone-delivery demonstration program soon, was the first company to obtain certification from the FAA as the equivalent of a small airline. Prime Air, Flirtey and others are also seeking similar approval, which is a step toward allowing them to operate routinely without having to seek waivers to current regulations.

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