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DronesE-commerce & FulfillmentLast-mile deliveryModern ShipperNewsRecent NewsTechnology

Flirtey firing up production, taking preorders for delivery drone

Company has conducted more than 6,000 test flights, nearing FAA certification

Flirtey, the first company in the U.S. to conduct a Federal Aviation Administration-approved drone delivery back in 2015, announced it is ready to ramp up production of its drone delivery system and is now taking preorders.

The Flirtey Eagle is part of the overall technology package the company offers, which includes the Flirtey Portal and autonomous software platform. The company is seeking FAA certification for its last-mile delivery drone system.

“Flirtey is certifying and expanding U.S. production of delivery drones to meet growing demand,” Matthew Sweeny, Flirtey founder and CEO, said. “Flirtey’s technology enables businesses to operate their own logistics by providing store-to-door drone delivery to customers. Businesses who use Flirtey’s best-in-class technology for last-mile drone delivery become first movers to unlock lower delivery costs and billions in potential new revenue.”

Read: If drones can deliver Starbucks, what’s taking so long for packages?

Flirtey has conducted more than 6,000 flights to date, it said. In November, Flirtey was one of 10 drone companies seeking proposed certification from the FAA to classify their Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or drones as special class aircraft. According to the FAA, this approval is part of the process in certifying drones for operation, including for package delivery.

“The development of airworthy, durable and reliable unmanned aircraft is a crucial step forward for this innovative sector,” said Michael C. Romanowski, director of Aircraft Certification Service Policy and Innovation. “Type certification will help increase both public and regulatory confidence in drone technology as operations become more advanced.”

The airworthiness criteria provide a level of safety equivalent to that provided by existing airworthiness standards applicable to other categories of aircraft and establish a defined path to type certification for specific drones, the FAA said.

As of November, these were the companies in the approval process (linked to the appropriate Federal Register notice):

The applicants’ drones range from 5 to 89 pounds and include several types of vehicle designs, including both fixed wing and rotorcraft, and are all electric powered. Each notice outlines the applicant’s proposed UAS for certification and the airworthiness criteria proposed by the FAA.

Flirtey’s application listed its F4.5 model, aka the Eagle. According to the Federal Register notice, the drone “consists of an unmanned aircraft (UA) and its associated elements that include communication links and the components that control the UA. The Model Flirtey F4.5 UA has a maximum gross takeoff weight of 38 pounds. It is approximately 78 inches in width, is 78 inches in length and 21 inches in height.”

Read: Best and worst states for drone operations

The F4.5 is battery powered. Flirtey said a single pilot would be able to operate up to 20 aircraft at a time. The aircraft would deliver medical supplies and packages, the company said in the application. The drone has a maximum operating altitude of 400 feet and a maximum cruising speed of 24 knots.

Flirtey’s system includes the Portal, which is a takeoff and landing platform that can be placed at storefronts, and its software platform that controls the flight operations. The drone lowers packages on a tether.

Flirtey previously raised approximately $15 million in a Series B Preferred Stock financing, which valued the company at approximately $100 million. Flirtey’s Series B investors include Hancock Prospecting; Lowercase Capital; Woowa Brothers; Ace Investment Partners; Amity Ventures; Y Combinator; members of the Sierra Angels; Ian Narev, former CEO of Commonwealth Bank; Joe Hockey, a former Australian ambassador to the United States; Melissa Babbage, a member of Flirtey’s board of directors; and In-Q-Tel.

The company said it was continuing to work toward completion of the FAA certification process and scaling its operations in New Zealand, where it has already received regulatory approval.

Click for more Modern Shipper articles by Brian Straight.

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Brian Straight, managing editor, Modern Shipper

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and fleetowner.com. Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at bstraight@freightwaves.com.