- 7-Eleven announced it has made 77 commercial drone deliveries to customers in Reno, Nevada, making it the first company to make regular commercial drone deliveries in the U.S., as reported by Recode.
- The convenience store chain teamed up with drone delivery firm Flirtey to make flights to 12 selected customers who lived within 1 mile radius of a single 7-Eleven location.
- The drones flew autonomously, but every delivery had to be made within line of sight of a drone pilot, as the operation would otherwise be illegal without special permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The regulatory agency, along with NASA, conducted tests in Reno for a low-altitude air traffic control system that would open more drone delivery opportunities in the future.
Most people making bets would likely have guessed major tech and e-commerce players like Amazon or Google would be the first to establish a commercial drone delivery service stateside, but not only did 7-Eleven beat every company to the punch, it went beyond making the token single delivery, though the service is pretty limited area-wise for now.
Drone delivery is showing signs of approaching a sort of critical mass after years of promise: In November, Domino’s announced it made the first pizza delivery by drone in New Zealand, also with the help of Flirtey; earlier this month, Just Eat made a delivery by ground drone in Greenwich, London and just a week ago Amazon made its first commercial drone delivery, also in the U.K, in Cambridge.
Regulatory groups like the FAA have kept a clamp on U.S. drone operations through tight airspace regulations. With President-elect Trump incoming, however, this may be subject to change, as Trump has suggested he wants to privatize airspace and wrest some control away from the FAA. Drones and other self-piloting devices have the potential to dramatically open up shipping options and new dimensions to omnichannel shopping and can also be used for promotion purposes, as Uber obnoxiously showed in Mexico City in October.