Israeli startup providing drones for Walmart deliveries

Tel Aviv-based Flytrex says FAA is set to approve its six-bladed drone to provide at-home delivery of packages. Company already testing with Walmart.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

An Israeli startup might be dropping into homes in America in the near future, literally.

The American retail giant Walmart chose an Israeli startup to pilot a project with delivery of online orders via drone.

One of the key players is the Israeli company Playtrax, which will begin delivering drones this fall to Walmart for field testing.

The drones will deliver packages to customer homes from their local Walmart store, Channel 11 reported Wednesday.

Flytrex is one of just a handful of companies in the U.S. permitted to make crosstown commercial deliveries. Flytrex packs the drone at the store and then flies it to a customer’s backyard, where the order is lowered by cable from a height of about 30 meters (80 feet).

“Five years ago Jeff Bezos announced that by 2019, Amazon delivery drones would roam the skies. Well, we all know how that turned out…,” Flytrex posted last year on its Facebook page. “Meanwhile, we’ve been delivering packages to paying customers since 2017! Less talk, more action–that’s what we’re all about.”

Walmart is bullish on the Israeli startup and signed a deal for a test program that started in September in Fayetteville, North Carolina, focused on delivering select grocery and household essential items from Walmart stores using Flytrex’s automated drones.

“The message is really simple. You are able to receive what you want almost at the speed you can order it,” Flytrex founder Yariv Bash told Channel 11.

“Everything is done automatically. All the operator has to do is push a green button. That’s all. The drone takes off by itself, flies to the destination and when it gets to you above your house you can follow the progress on a smartphone app,” Bash explained.

The drone with its six engines is loaded at a Walmart store and takes off, flying high enough to avoid towers and buildings, then descending to a lower height to slowly lower the order to the ground, release it, then return to Walmart.

How slowly does it lower the box with the goods?

“We’ve already transferred eggs, milkshakes, coffee, everything goes great,” Bash said.

Because the drone is classified as an aircraft and can travel up to six kilometers, it requires certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a step critical for its future use.

Bash says the FAA has checked out the drone’s systems for safety. If it deviates from its route or runs into trouble, the engines automatically shut down and a parachute lowers the drone safely to the ground, operating a siren to warn passersby and also alert to its location.

Flytrex has designed the drone to be relatively inexpensive, but at the same time very reliable.

Walmart is in a battle against Amazon and Google, which are both developing drone delivery systems, the Channel 11 report said.

Bash said Walmart looked at the drone delivery market and got worried, but linked up with Flytrex because they already had the technology available for the American retail giant to jump in with field testing.

While a  human operated delivery vehicle can make an average of two deliveries an hour, Flytrex claims a drone can do double that or even more.

The Flytrex founder says that thinking about the delivery situation today shows the absurdity of the old technology.

“In order to deliver a 200 gram hamburger you use an 80 kilogram human being and put them in a vehicle weighing a ton and a half. For 20 minutes all that human being does is bring you a 200 gram hamburger,” said Bash. “When you think of it that way, it’s not logical.”