Culture / Edge / IoT

Surprise! 7-Eleven Kicks off the Era of Commercial Drone Deliveries

31 Jul 2016 3:49am, by

Flirtey screencap from Drone video

The future has arrived, and it brought a Slurpee.

“Today we’re excited to announce @Fly_Flirtey and @7eleven have completed the first store-to-home drone delivery!” read the big announcement on Twitter.

The historic delivery consisted of doughnuts, hot coffee, a chicken sandwich, candy, and a Slurpee frozen drink.

“Because you haven’t reached true convenience until Slurpees are falling from the sky,” quipped the Huffington Post.

“I am so ready for Slurpee’s delivered by drone,” sighed Good Morning America’s Becky Worley. As the country watched her light-hearted report on the historic drone delivery, she shared an insightful observation about the lucky family who received the delivery. “They have three kids under the age of seven. What don’t they need immediately?”

Many observers had long expected Amazon to pioneer the field of home delivery by drones, so it came as a bit of a surprise that a U.S. chain of convenience stores leap-frogged ahead. But it made sense. In fact, even though this was just a test flight, everyone involved in this giant leap for Slurpee-kind is already imagining a future where if you’ve forgotten suntan lotion, or you’re out of batteries — a drone delivers them to you, from a nearby 7‑Eleven.

“This is just the first step in our collaboration with 7‑Eleven,” boasted Matt Sweeny, CEO of Flirtey, the company that created the drone. “Today is a giant leap toward a not-too-distant future where we are delivering you convenience on demand.”

And the theme of drone-assisted convenience was also strongly echoed by 7‑Eleven’s Chief Merchandising Officer, Jesus H. Delgado-Jenkin, who called drone delivery “the ultimate convenience” for 7-Eleven’s customers. “We look forward to working with Flirtey to deliver to our customers exactly what they need, whenever and wherever they need it.”

 

“Congratulations, America, the future is here — and it’s flying junk food,” joked the New York Daily News. But by the end of the day, even the governor of Nevada was weighing on this momentous Slurpee delivery, “I congratulate Nevada-based company Flirtey on making history yet again…Through our FAA Test Site designation, Flirtey has cemented Nevada’s position as the leader in the commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) industry and I look forward to seeing them continue to grow and bring jobs to our region.”

New FAA guidelines released this month make it easier for drone pilots to obtain a commercial certification. So the flight of the Slurpees is a timely reminder that drones really have become a here-and-now technology that is already quietly working its way into our everyday lives.

For example, in South Africa drones are being tested as a way to help protect endangered animals — by using thermal sensors to scan for poachers. “We’ve seen a direct correlation between our presence and poaching numbers declining, the director of drone company UAV & Drone Solutions (UDS) tells The Guardian, adding “the technology is only going to get better, smaller, cheaper.”

In an article titled “From killing machines to agents of hope,” the British newspaper also describes how drones are also being tested as a way to deliver medical supplies in Rwanda, where the rain-soaked roads are often unpassable. This summer, drones will even be used to help photograph the Rio Olympics.

So that fateful Friday Slurpee run wasn’t just about sugary junk food — it was also a glimpse of our future. According to a 7-Eleven press release, the purpose of the mission was “to advance research toward integrating drones into the National Airspace System.” 7-Eleven and Flirtey teamed with something called the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems to test Flirtey’s packaging (and “delivery technology”) — and, of course, to advance the future of all drone deliveries. “This delivery required special flight planning, risk analysis, and detailed flight procedures ensuring residential safety and privacy were equally integrated,” said Chris Walach, Director of Operations for NIAS. The drone was flown autonomously using the GPS coordinates of the customer’s house and lowered its delivery down from the sky using a tiny drone-sized winch.

Flirty drone delivers 7-Elevent order - Cn_MLq8UIAEc3FB.jpg large flirtey

To find customers willing to have their order handled by a flying robot, the companies surveyed households within a one-mile radius of the store from which they planned to deliver,” according to Tech Crunch. And of course, when the mission was completed, there were endless rounds of proud back-slapping. The official press release for the flight points out that it took place on the 89th anniversary of the 7-Eleven franchise, that it included both hot and cold items from 7-Eleven, and constituted “a historic milestone in both U.S. and global commerce.”

That’s right, history will show that the first commercially-delivered product delivered by drone was not a book from Amazon — it was a Slurpee. And maybe history books will even include a photo of a hard-working Reno dad named Michael — that lucky man who received the world’s first commercial drone delivery. “It’s amazing that a flying robot just delivered us food and drinks in a matter of minutes…” he gushed in the press release from 7-Eleven. ” My wife and I both work and have three small children ages 7, 6 and 1. The convenience of having access to instant, 24/7 drone delivery is priceless.”

“We have to hand it to this family: They have excellent taste in snacks…” added the Huffington Post. “Of course, you could just drive to your nearest 7-Eleven and have a Slurpee in minutes, but where’s the fun in that?”

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