Flytrex begins food delivery by drone in DFW area

By Jim Magill

Residents of the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area are now able to enjoy deliveries from some of their favorite restaurants via drones, thanks to a new service begun by Flytrex.

Tel Aviv-based Flytrex on Tuesday today announced the launch of its drone delivery service in Granbury, Texas, about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth. Flytrex will expand its partnership with Brinker International — owner of Chili’s Grill & Bar, Maggiano’s Little Italy, It’s Just Wings and Maggiano’s Italian Classics — to deliver food orders via drone to the homes of local residents, with a flight time of just five minutes.

Food Delivery by Drone

“It’s as easy as ordering food through any other delivery app. All you have to do is download the Flytrex mobile app on your I-Phone or Android device. Then all you have to do is select your favorite meal and other items and put in your home address,” Yariv Bash, Flytrex CEO and cofounder, said in an interview.

“The next thing that will happen is a drone will hover outside of your house and lower the meal on a tether, gently to the ground,” he said.

food delivery by drone

Flytrex will operate its new Texas service in cooperation with long-time partner Causey Aviation Unmanned, under an expanded authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration. In December, Flytrex, which operates drone delivery service at three locations in North Carolina, received FAA approval to expand its delivery service to a radius of one nautical mile. The new authorization enabled the company to extend its delivery service to 10,000 homes across North Carolina.

As in its North Carolina, in its newest operation the company will fly its drones out of a centralized hub, within easy access to the largely suburban area of the Lone Star State. Unlike some of its competitors, which adapt commercially available drones to fit their delivery operations, Flytrex custom designs and builds it own drones, Bash said.

food delivery by drone

“Flytrex develops everything in house for a very good reason, if you want to perform actual deliveries on a large scale or national level, you must certify your drones as commercial airplanes,” he said.

“So, you can’t just buy something online and approach the FAA and say ‘Yeah, I’m going to fly those things in the thousands above people’s heads all across the US.’ You have to design and produce your own drones as if they were a commercial airplane, just like Airbus or Boeing.”

The Flytrex system is designed and certified to allow the drones to fly on their missions completely autonomously. “There’s no joystick. There’s no remote backup,” Bash said. “There is, however, a pilot in command holding a tablet and in any unforeseen event that pilot in command can call the drones back home or instruct them to perform an emergency landing.”

Drones offer the ideal solution for accomplishing on-demand deliveries in moderately populated suburban areas, where travel distances make other forms of delivery inefficient and expensive, Bash said.

“If you’re talking about place like Manhattan or downtown Boston, a human courier can make three-and-a-half deliveries per hour because the distances are very short and you can optimize the delivery routes for multiple deliveries on the same route,” he said.

“Once you go to the suburbs, delivery distances grow. You can make delivery per route and you have to use a car, which has to be commercially insured, instead of a bicycle or an e-bike,” he said. “In the end, the human courier can make at most two deliveries per hour in the suburbs.”

These factors also make on-demand deliveries in suburban areas prohibitively expensive, about $10 per delivery, Bash said.

“The way on-demand companies compensate for that is by charging the end-customers a few bucks, but also by charging the restaurants up to 30% of the amount ordered, which makes on-demand deliveries in the suburbs a lose-lose situation for everybody. Drones on the other hand are an order of magnitude more affordable,” he said.

Flytrex, which began commercial delivery operations in North Carolina in September 2020 as a partner with that state’s transportation department in the FAA’s BEYOND program, is nearing the completion of a five-year process, to secure a national approval from the FAA for drone deliveries.

“It’s very different from most of the other pilot programs that you’re seeing in the U.S. and all over the world,” Bash said. “Basic regulation is not a zero-to-one process, but a step-by-step process.”

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Jim Magill is a Houston-based writer with almost a quarter-century of experience covering technical and economic developments in the oil and gas industry. After retiring in December 2019 as a senior editor with S&P Global Platts, Jim began writing about emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robots and drones, and the ways in which they’re contributing to our society. In addition to DroneLife, Jim is a contributor to and his work has appeared in the Houston Chronicle, U.S. News & World Report, and Unmanned Systems, a publication of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.