By Michael Murphy Talks of using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for deliveries have taken place for years, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was understandably apprehensive about allowing unregulated use. Companies like Amazon have had to put their plans on hold. Dreams of a science fiction style future grew more distant daily.
Yet, on July 17, the FAA allowed a UAV to deliver medical supplies to a free clinic in western Virginia for the purpose of practicing research flights.
For a lot of companies, this is a huge moment. It is an indicator that the FAA recognizes the impact of expedited delivery and is taking big steps towards making it happen.
Unfortunately, this Kitty Hawk moment comes with a slightly bittersweet taste to some. Some wonder why, during such a historic moment for the United States, NASA and Virginia Tech chose an Australian drone start-up, Flirtey Inc., instead of one of the countless other American made drones.
In 2013, in exchange for equity, the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) created a partnership with Flirtey toprovide access to UNR's R&D Labs. Flirtey could then design, manufacture, research, as well as use their indoor flight testing facilities and supply graduate students an opportunity for hands on work.
They joined up with Zookal to create the world-first drone delivery test in October of the same year, in which they conducted over a hundred successful test deliveries of textbooks. Managing such an accomplishment was only made possible by strategically aligning themselves with areas that featured, what they call, “friendly regulation.”
This is a massive step in the right direction for increased delivery time for anything from medical supplies to consumer products.