Australian commercial drone startup Flirtey, in partnership with NASA and Virginia Tech, will be the first company to demonstrate commercial drone deliveries in the US.
Two unmanned aircraft will deliver up to 24 packages of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, weighing around 4.5kg total, to a remote free clinic on July 17 in Wise, Virginia.
The shipments will be the first-ever Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved commercial drone deliveries.
The FAA selected Virginia tech, as one of six other national test programs to conduct research to help integrate unmanned aircraft into American airspace.
Flirtey co-founder and CEO Matt Sweeny told Business Insider the demonstration would be an important moment for the entire drone delivery industry.
“I am personally very excited because we are among the first in the world to actually launch successful drone delivery trials, and this provides a springboard for Flirtey to launch its commercial drone delivery service across the country,” he said.
The lightweight autonomous drones, known as hexacopters, are constructed from carbon fibre, aluminium and 3D printed components. Each aircraft has a flying range of more than 25 kilometres return and deploys its cargo from a tether attached to the underside.
Built-in safety features mean the drones will return to a safe location if their batteries are low or if they encounter weak GPS signals or losses in communication.
Tom Bass, Flirtey co-founder, said the demonstrations will be a game-changer for millions of Americans.
“This is the first step in proving that on-demand drone delivery can revolutionise the way medical care can be delivered to remote communities, and eventually from your local pharmacy to your front door,” he said.
In April this year, Flirtey partnered with New Zealand Land Search and Rescue (LandSAR) to test whether drones can search for missing people and deliver emergency supplies.
Here’s a look at the hexacopter drone that will make the deliveries: