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7-Eleven boasts 77 deliveries by drone, mainstream adoption still far off

Friday 30 December 2016 | 09:30 AM CET

Convenience store chain 7-Eleven, in partnership with Flirtey, a drone delivery service company, has completed its 77th commercial drone delivery.

The deliveries are limited to just Nevada for now, but 7-Eleven and Flirtey hope to expand their drone services in 2017, Business Insider reports. Though the deliveries kicked off in July 2016, it was in November when the company started making regular weekend deliveries from a 7-Eleven store to about a dozen customers.

Customers involved in the 7-Eleven drone program placed their orders via an app, which notified them when the drone was loaded, when it departed, and when it was arriving at their doorstep. Deliveries, on average, took less than 10 minutes.

Flirtey made the first FAA-approved urban drone delivery earlier in 2016. Amazon, which set off the drone delivery race in 2013, recently launched a similarly small drone delivery test in the city of Cambridge in the UK.

However, even if drone package delivery is sparking the imagination of retailers, there is still a long way to go until drone delivery becomes mainstream. Making drone deliveries more widespread in the US will require an air traffic control system that can remotely control drones to ensure they don’t fly into prohibited airspace, rather than relying on individual drone pilots. The FAA and NASA tested such an air traffic control system earlier this year in Reno, demonstrating that the FAA is actively seeking ways to remove the line-of-sight rule.

Although in 2015, a framework for regulation that legitimizes drones in the US began to take shape, technological and regulatory barriers still exist to further drone adoption. Safer technology and better regulation will open up new applications for drones in the commercial sector, including drone delivery programs like Amazon’s Prime Air and Google’s Project Wing initiatives.

Despite intense interest from Amazon and Google, Federal Aviation Administration drone regulations make it to hard for companies to roll out wide-scale drone delivery programs. While the agency softened some commercial drone rules in August 2016, drones still can’t fly out of an operator’s line of vision or at night.

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