An unmanned air vehicle manufacturer has claimed a new aviation milestone by completing the first autonomous package delivery in US airspace in an urban setting.
Flirtey’s unmanned, six-rotor vehicle delivered the package, which consisted of water, food and a first aid kit, at a Hawthorne, Nevada test site approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration.
Though only an experiment under close human supervision, Flirtey believes the test is a major step in the development of UAVs as commercial delivery vehicles in urban areas.
“Conducting the first drone delivery in an urban setting is a major achievement, taking us closer to the day that drones make regular deliveries to your front doorstep,” Flirtey chief executive Matt Sweeney says in a statement.
The Flirtey UAV took off from the Hawthorne airport and flew about a half-mile to a pre-arranged delivery site. It delivered the package by lowering a rope with the package tied to the bottom to the ground.
The flight was monitored by a visual observer with the ability to intervene if necessary and by other Flirtey officials monitoring air traffic frequencies at Hawthorne airport.
“The success of this trial operating closely to an airport demonstrates Flirtey's ability to operate its drone delivery service safely in the national airspace,” Sweeney tells Flightglobal in an email.
The drop-off location was pre-arranged and monitored, so the vehicle was not equipped with autonomous means of verifying the site is safe. An operational system, however, may require the vehicle to independently double-check that the designated drop-off site is cleared of hazards or people.
“We're heavily invested in [research and development] to create advanced safety systems including safe delivery location detection,” Sweeney adds.