Drone technology company Flytrex is preparing to begin trial food deliveries in the town of Holly Springs, North Carolina, under the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP). The flights, using drones manufactured by China’s DJI and adapted with software developed by Israel-based Flytrex, will operate on a single designated delivery route between the Holly Springs Towne Center shopping mall and the Ting Park sports and recreation area.
The aircraft will carry loads of up to just over six pounds on a flightpath that crosses over Route 55 and largely over unpopulated areas. Under the IPP, it will operate under Part 107 rules and within line of sight of the remote pilot in command.
Flytrex is partnering with local commercial drone operator Causey Aviation Unmanned, having received FAA approval in mid-August. Kite Realty Trust, which owns the mall, is also a partner in the trial program, along with the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
In addition to software that allows operations to be integrated with retail apps used by participating restaurants, Flytrex also has developed a self-triggered parachute recovery system that was recently validated by Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research under standards set by the FAA and the ASTM International.
Flytrex is already conducting drone delivery trials in Iceland. Operations with the drones it is currently using are limited to round trips of up to seven miles in dry weather and with wind speeds less than 18 mph.
According to Flytrex CEO and co-founder Yariv Bash, the company is hopeful that by the end of 2020 new FAA regulations will be in place to support an expansion of drone delivery services to any location in the U.S. He also indicated that by around the same time, suitable drones should be available that can carry a higher payload on 10-mile roundtrips and operate in wet conditions with higher winds.
Flytrex is now expanding its operation around the Icelandic capital Reykjavik from the six locations it has been serving. The company said that it needed only two days to train local delivery operators, since its system requires no joystick or virtual cockpit. According to Bash, each delivery operator can make up to 15 deliveries per hour.