Flytrex, the company that wants to bring drones to your backyard, announced on Tuesday an expansion of its drone delivery service to Holly Springs, North Carolina, a Smart Cities Award winner, where it will fly orders of chicken wings directly to residents’ front and backyards.
In partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration, the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the town of Holly Springs and Kite Realty Group Trust (NYSE: KRG), Flytrex will collaborate with Brinker International (NYSE: EAT) to deliver Brinker’s virtual brand, It’s Just Wings, to the town’s Forest Springs neighborhood from the Holly Springs Town Center.
To make chicken wings fly, all customers need to do is input their home address in the Flytrex app, input their order and check out. Another Flytrex partner, Causey Aviation Unmanned, then handles the ground portion of the operation – its operators load the food into a small package and attach that to the drone.
From there, Flytrex’s drone takes off all on its own, navigates to the customer’s backyard and lowers the package down using a tether while hovering about 80 feet in the air. The app even provides updates and notifications as the food makes its way through the sky. All of Flytrex’s deliveries in Holly Springs are under Part 107 regulations and within visual line of sight.
“Getting your food delivered from the sky, the first time is always a pleasure, and people are delightful and happy,” Flytrex CEO Yariv Bash told Modern Shipper. “By the third or fourth time, they get a notification on their smartphone and they just go outside and pick up the food. It just becomes a regular service.”
According to Bash, folks in Holly Springs can’t get enough of the new delivery service.
“Once you see that one of your neighbors is getting a drone delivery, the next thing that you do is you want to try it on your own. So it’s a bit viral for that local market,” he said.
Bash and Flytrex have been in North Carolina for several years, first as part of the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP) from 2018 to 2020 and then as part of its subsequent initiative, the BEYOND program, since October 2020. The company started out delivering food and groceries to residents of Fayetteville and Raeford a month after joining BEYOND, first delivering to central pickup locations in those towns and later directly to customers’ homes after the FAA greenlit flying over people.
According to the announcement, Flytrex’s volume of drone delivery orders in North Carolina has increased tenfold since February, and the addition of Holly Springs completes a trio of North Carolina towns that will form a miniature drone delivery hub for the region.
“Palm Springs was a natural selection in the area,” Bash explained. “We already have two stations nearby, and we want to create a chunk of stations that are nearby so we can manage them in a fruitful way.”
Moving ahead, Bash wants to add more stores and restaurants to the Holly Springs program, and he wants to incorporate more towns into the budding regional drone network. But he’s also thinking bigger – Flytrex is one of a handful of companies nearing the end of a yearslong regulatory process with the FAA to be certified as a commercial airplane.
“And once you have that certification in place,” he explained, “you’re pretty much good to go on a national level.”
Bash emphasized that acquiring FAA airworthiness certification is a huge deal, because the new classification comes with much greater leeway than a commercial drone classification. “The difference is huge. You can buy a commercial drone from Best Buy, versus it takes three to five years to certify an airplane. So to the untrained eye, they all look the same: a box with a few propellers. But aviation-wise, these are very different machines than most of those you see flying over your head.”
With an airplane certification in tow, Flytrex would be in a better position to compete on the national stage with Amazon and Alphabet’s Wing, which Bash identifies as his two main competitors in the backyard drone delivery space.