An average round of golf takes about four hours for four golfers to play 18 holes. That’s a lot of time for golfers to be out there, braving the sun and heat, and praying the food cart will come around.
The King’s Walk Golf Course outside Grand Forks, North Dakota came up with a solution that brings consumer convenience to the next level by literally having food and drink fall out of the sky wherever clients are on the course.
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King’s Walk teamed up with Israeli drone logistics startup Flytrex, which specializes in food and consumer good deliveries via unmanned aircraft systems, and EASE Drones, the US drone services provider, to launch the first golf course delivery system in the US.
Flytrex will deliver food and beverages from King Walk’s restaurant, Eagles Crest Grill, which will be lowered down to patrons in specific locations as they make their rounds.
Flytrex CEO and co-founder Yariv Bash tells NoCamels that the company was “approached by the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation to do our drone deliveries.”
“It’s a nice addition to the clubhouse,” he says, referring to the restaurant located at the 9th and 18th greens of the 18-hole golf course, where golfers usually dine after a game. If they don’t dine at the restaurant itself, Bash explains, they’re waiting for the one golf cart driving across the greenery making deliveries to all the golfers that have ordered in advance.
The new service will cut waiting time and likely make the golfers happier. “You can get whatever you need in a few minutes,” Bash says.
In order to use the new service, golfers need only to open the ‘Flytrex Golf’ ordering app and select the food and beverage items they would like to order for delivery. After choosing from nearby, pre-approved drop-off sites, golfers can then place their order and get a confirmation. The restaurant receives the order, packs it up, and passes it to a Flytrex technician which loads it into a drone.
“Staff will no longer need to operate a cumbersome, ‘milk-run’ route method to bring customers food and beverages,” Flytrex said in a statement, “The phone app provides the customer with the ongoing status of the order in real-time. The drone arrives at the drop-off point and remains airborne, awaiting confirmation that the customer is in position nearby. Once confirmed, the drone lowers the order by wire to the ground, using Flytrex’s ‘InAir’ wire-drop system to ensure utmost safety.”
Though the service is still in trial phase, with a successful one-day pilot completed in August, it’s set to officially roll out “by the end of this month,” Bash says.
The drone delivery service complies with existing legislation, Bash confirms to NoCamels, citing Part 107 of FAA rules for small unmanned aircraft (UAS) operations, which covers rules for a wide range of commercial and government uses for drones weighing less than 55 pounds.
The FAA has been working with NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to develop a universal air-traffic management system for drones which will only be completed in 2020.
Drone businesses have been eager to tap into the US market as the US has loosened regulations, allowing them more freedom to experiment with their unmanned systems throughout the country. The US has established 10 regulatory zones for companies to test aerial services. Those zones include Raleigh, North Carolina; San Diego, California; Reno, Nevada; Durant, Oklahoma (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma); Topeka, Kansas; and Memphis, Tennessee.
This is the first of many projects Flytrex is planning in the US, the company has said. In May, the Israeli firm was selected to participate in the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Integration Pilot Program established by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to expand testing of commercial drone operations, alongside companies like Google and Intel, which allowed them to “partner with private sector entities, such as UAS operators or manufacturers, to accelerate safe UAS integration,” the FAA said, in the 10 regulatory zones.
Though accepted to the pilot program, Bash tells NoCamels the company continues to finalize details with the FAA and that Flytrex should be officially flying drone deliveries in the US “by the end of the year.”
“We’re happy that delivery is moving forward in the US,” he says, “We’re excited to be part of the FAA pilot program. We know it will shape the future of commercial drone delivery.”
Expansion in Iceland
Flytrex has said it can manage drone drops in less than five minutes to some of the most remote locations. One of its most successful projects to date is the launch of its drone delivery service in Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, where Flytrex is working with AHA, one of the country’s largest e-commerce companies since last year as part of a limited trial phase. Currently, it only takes a Flytrex drone about four-and-a-half minutes to travel two miles from the AHA warehouse to a designated spot across the city, which includes residential areas and backyards.
AHA currently flies 13 routes around Reykjavik using the Matrice 600 Pro drone, but Bash says that by the end of the year, the drone will be able to fly to at least 14 points throughout the city. Although the weather will likely be tricky at this time, he says, the company has received approval to expand its drop-off locations.
The Matrice 600 drones can complete about 20 deliveries a day, but the number is expected to grow substantially, to over 100, Bash told NoCamels in July.
The system is life-changing, he said, “like moving from Nokia to [the] iPhone.”
Flytrex, which provides drone delivery management through the cloud, but doesn’t build actual drones, plans to phase in more hardware as part of the program over the next two years. Bash says the same tech used in Iceland is also used at the North Dakota golf course and that the system is extremely “agile” with easily adjustable parameters in the framework.
Bash founded Flytrex in 2013 with business partner Amit Regev, who was Bash’s flatmate while he was working for SpaceIL.
That Israeli startup, co-founded in 2010 with Kfir Damari and Yonatan Weintraub, is also having a banner year. The company has recently announced plans to launch a spacecraft to the moon by December and land in February 2019. If it happens, Israel will become the fourth country in the world to complete a controlled moon landing.