It’s 5.30pm. You want a pizza. But you really don’t feel like going out when it’s freezing and practically raining buckets. But you also realise delivery could take FOREVER – it is rush hour, after all.
News flash: the entire above scenario is ridiculous. Because, by the end of this year, ordinary folks in Aotearoa like us will be able to have our pizzas delivered by drone. Seriously.
Domino’s is teaming up with Flirtey to offer regular drone delivery of pizzas to hungry Kiwis before 2018 arrives. According to Flirtey CEO Matthew Sweeny, the service will be available at one Domino’s chain at first. He says the exact location is yet to be determined, but can reveal that it will be “north of Auckland.”
He’s not exactly shy about what the potential could be. “This is going to change everything,” he says. “Drone delivery is going to be as common as seeing an NZ Post driver. The cat’s out of the bag. This is something that will be as big as smartphones.”
After the initial location, Sweeny says there are plans to roll out drone delivery throughout the Land of the Long White Cloud. “This is the first place in the world [where] we’re taking drone delivery to scale.”
And why New Zealand?
“At the very beginning, we identified that New Zealand had the most forward-thinking aviation regulations.”
Founded in Australia in 2013, Flirtey helped deliver a Domino’s pizza to Transport Minister Simon Bridges in August last year – a world-first that Sweeny says was all the more impressive because it was raining.
And what’s happened to that drone? It’s just been accepted into the aviation collection at Auckland’s Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT).
The Flirtey DRU Drone used in the world's first pizza delivery by drone, which is now part of MOTAT's aviation collection.
“Flirtey is proud to be a part of New Zealand’s aviation history and join MOTAT’s unequaled collection,” says Sweeny. “We are honoured that MOTAT has accepted this ground-breaking Flirtey delivery drone, and it is my hope it will inspire future generations.”
MOTAT intends to develop a public exhibit showcasing the DRU Drone amongst its existing aviation collection, and will also display the aircraft in an upcoming interactive drone event. “This aircraft has a unique and fascinating background which fits our vision perfectly as we seek to use stories of transport and technology ingenuity to inspire our visitors,” says MOTAT CEO Michael Frawley. “Drones are a symbol of modern times; they represent the future and it’s important that we recognise their place in history, preserve their stories and include them in our museum collections. We are delighted to be appointed as custodians of this contemporary unmanned aircraft.”
This is the second Flirtey drone accepted into a renowned museum. In 2016, the Flirtey drone used to make the first FAA-approved delivery in the US was accepted into the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, alongside the Space Shuttle Discovery and the Wright Flyer.
Sweeny adds that Flirtey isn’t a service that purchases drones made by someone else and then uses them (like an airline) – it actually makes its own drones. For instance, the DRU Drone Flirtey used for the Domino’s delivery is constructed of carbon fibre, aluminium and 3D printed components. It lowers its cargo via tether and has built-in safety features such as low battery return to safe location and auto-return home in case of low GPS signal or communication loss.
Sweeny says people shouldn’t be surprised by the capabilities of his company’s drones. “One of our engineers used to be the head of drones at NASA.”
Domino’s is impressed, too. “Launching the first commercial drone delivery service in the world was a landmark achievement for aviation – and we’re proud to have this take place in our New Zealand market,” says Domino’s Group CEO and managing director Don Meij. “We’ll continue to partner with Flirtey and see drone delivery as an essential component of our pizza deliveries in the future.”
Oh, and Flirtey will be doing more than just delivering pizzas. Sweeny says the company has already signed a deal with auto parts company Repco, and has received interest from many other businesses. But Sweeny says Flirtey’s drones can also be used for more than business, adding they can, for example, help bring food, water and medicine to disaster areas, or even deliver anti-venom quickly to someone high up on a mountain who has just been bitten by a snake.