First ‘Urban’ Drone Delivery Test A Success


The first FAA-sanctioned drone delivery in a built-up area occurred in Hawthorne, Nevada, two weeks ago and Flirtey, the company behind the milestone, says it plans more approved tests in more complicated environments in the near future. The test happened March 10 but was announced Friday. The eight-rotor drone autonomously flew a preprogrammed half-mile route to drop a box, suspended from a rope, filled with food, water and first aid supplies in front of an empty house in a vacant Hawthorne neighborhood. A standby pilot was on hand but wasn’t needed. Hawthorne is a town of about 3,500 in west central Nevada and most of its residents work in a nearby Army ammunition storage depot. The test was filmed for a future ABC-TV documentary.

“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 CEO Matt Sweeney said. The test came eight months after Flirtey dropped medical supplies to an isolated rural clinic in Virginia. Although Amazon gets most of the attention for its drone delivery plans, Sweeney said Flirtey is on track to be the first commercial service. The next test will involve a delivery in an “urban populated area.” Flirtey is an Australian company that recently moved to Reno and is working with the Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center at the University of Nevada, Reno.