Delivery

Amazon, FedEx, and even Chili’s delve deeper into drone delivery

Takeout is taking off and UNO cards are now airborne.
article cover

Elroy Air

· 3 min read

Stay up to date on the retail industry

All the news and insights retail pros need to know, all in one newsletter. Join over 180,000 retail professionals by subscribing today.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to drone delivery as companies like Amazon and Chili’s pilot the pilot-less aircraft tech with the promise of faster (and more environmentally friendly) transportation to your doorstep.

Prepare for takeoff: Amazon plans to enlist 1,300 shoppers in Lockeford, California, and College Station, Texas, to test Prime Air drone delivery starting in September, Insider reported this week.

  • Consumers can choose from ~3,000 products weighing less than five pounds, spanning pharmaceutical, beauty, and pet goods, according to documents Insider obtained.
  • Amazon wants to conduct a minimum of 12,000 test flights by year’s end—5,000 of them for transporting goods to customers—to help secure regulatory approval from the FAA.

The e-comm giant has been quietly testing this service on a smaller scale near its Oregon- and California-based drone facilities over the past 18 months with products like an UNO card set.

  • It first announced plans for drone delivery in 2013, but has hit some turbulence along the way, leading to dozens of Prime Air layoffs in 2020.

Buffalo winging it: While Amazon targets CPG delivery, Israeli startup Flytrex is helping takeout take off. This week, it debuted its drone-delivery service in Granbury, Texas, expanding a partnership with Brinker International, the parent company of Chili’s, Maggiano’s Little Italy, and virtual brand It’s Just Wings. Residents of Granbury can now get milkshakes delivered to their yards via drone within five minutes, according to the company.

The move comes after a successful pilot in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Flytrex also began testing drone deliveries with Walmart in North Carolina in 2020; that program was expanded last year after the startup gained FAA approval to fly over people, growing its reach to 2,000+ homes.

  • Drones can carry up to 6.6 pounds and fly five miles round trip, per the company.

Full flight: FedEx is thinking bigger. It announced yesterday it’s teaming up with cargo-drone maker Elroy Air to test shuttling packages across sorting hubs using the pilot-less aircraft, which can carry up to 500 pounds.

  • The hybrid-electric drone can travel ~300 miles and has a 28-foot wingspan with vertical takeoff, so it can take flight from a facility’s parking lot.

Joe Stephens, VP of FedEx’s Express unit, told Bloomberg the tech helps the company “drive efficiency, safety, and reliability and support customer demand” while advancing its sustainability objectives.—EC

Stay up to date on the retail industry

All the news and insights retail pros need to know, all in one newsletter. Join over 180,000 retail professionals by subscribing today.