Flirtey, which made national history in Wise County with a drone delivery in 2015 and which continues efforts here, has gained national notice again after unveiling Monday the company's new advanced delivery drone and predicting the near future of deliveries by unmanned aerial systems.
Matthew Sweeny, Flirtey founder and chief executive officer, debuted the Flirtey Eagle and the first video of it during an announcement at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
In an announcement about the unveiling, Flirtey said the Eagle represents the world’s most advanced drone delivery technology and the video shows the next-generation delivery drone performing consumer and automated external defibrillator deliveries to customer homes.
Flirtey’s latest technology makes life-saving and commercial drone delivery to homes in the United States an imminent reality, the company said. It is on course to conduct drone deliveries to U.S. homes as early as this year, the announcement said.
"We expect Flirtey’s advanced drone delivery system will become the industry standard in America,” Sweeny said in the announcement.
In addition to the Eagle, Monday's unveiling by the aircraft designer and manufacturer included the Flirtey Portal, a sophisticated takeoff and landing platform that enables scalable store-to-door operations, and an autonomous software platform that enables drones to deliver safely to American homes.
The announcement identified the following as among the principal notabilities of its advanced technology:
• Flirtey’s aircraft is designed to operate in 95 percent of wind and weather conditions, making it highly reliable for flight.
• It is designed to fit 75 percent of packages that get delivered to its customers’ homes during last-mile deliveries.
• The Flirtey Eagle safely and precisely delivers its contents by lowering a tether, while the drone is suspended in air, and once the package is delivered, it then retracts the tether.
• Flirtey’s aircraft is controlled by its autonomous software platform, which has received Federal Aviation Administration approval for the first multi-drone delivery operation in the United States, enabling a single remote pilot to simultaneously oversee 10 Flirtey drones.
• Flirtey’s Portal is a sophisticated takeoff and landing platform that fits into one parking space, making its infrastructure easily scalable to the company’s partners for store-to-door delivery.
“Flirtey’s technology has unique capabilities unavailable from any other aircraft manufacturer to enable first-movers to capture market share in their industries,” Sweeny said.
Flirtey’s system is designed to safely get packages to customers, with the delivery goal of less than 10 minutes using drones. Flirtey projects autonomous drone delivery will reduce the cost of last-mile delivery, which it said represents 53 percent of the total cost of delivery.
The company's announcement notes that Flirtey’s drone delivery technology "has been developed from the ground up, originating from NASA’s drone program . . . Sweeny has brought together a team of aviation industry veterans from NASA, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and SpaceX, as well as military veterans from the Army, Navy, and Air Force."
The Flirtey Eagle builds upon the advanced technologies developed for Flirtey’s previous generation aircraft, which conducted the first FAA-approved drone delivery in the United States, carrying medical supplies from Lonesome Pine Airport to the Remote Area Medical and Health Wagon outreach at Wise County fairgrounds.
Sweeny was in town last month for ceremonies unveiling the sign at the airport that marks the aviation milestone. The drone that made the flight is going on display alongside the Wright Flyer in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
The company's announcement said its goal is to surpass the rigorous safety standards of the FAA. It listed some of Flirtey’s regulatory approvals, including:
• Approval to conduct multi-drone delivery operations, enabling a single remote pilot to simultaneously oversee 10 Flirtey drones.
• Approval to conduct drone delivery flights beyond visual line of sight, enabling Flirtey to conduct drone delivery operations with a pilot controlling the flights from a remote location.
• Approval to conduct drone delivery flights at night, making drone delivery accessible at any time.