One small step for 7-Eleven: Slurpee delivery by drone

OK, so while it may not quite be up there with the parting of the Red Sea,  7-Eleven did nudge mankind a few inches forward the other day when for the first time it used a drone to deliver a Slurpee and other snacks to a customer.

The delivery, which included a chicken sandwich, donuts, candy and hot coffee (careful!), was the result of a collaboration between the 59,800-store chain, drone manufacturer Flirtey, and the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) (whose website for some strange reason was inoperative this morning).

Shoved into a special container, the drone dropped off the meal, if you can it that,  in the backyard of the Reno, Nevada home of an unnamed customer, who sounded a lot like a 7-Eleven marketing dude when he was quoted by The Hill blog as saying:


‘”My wife and I both work and have three small children ages 7, 6 and 1. The convenience of having access to instant, 24/7 drone delivery is priceless. It’s amazing that a flying robot just delivered us food and drinks in a matter of minutes.”

7-Eleven and Flirtey say they hope drone deliveries like this one would soon include “everyday essentials” such as batteries and sunscreen. “This delivery required special flight planning, risk analysis and detailed flight procedures ensuring residential safety and privacy were equally integrated,” Chris Walach, director of operations for the NIAS, told The Hill.

Flirtey, whose website describes its mission as “making drone delivery possible for everyone,” apparently has big world-changing plans:

We’re building an industry, not just a company. Flirtey’s mission is save lives and change lifestyles by making delivery instant.

How lives might be saved by Slurpees was not immediately clear, although it does get hot and dry in Reno this time of year.

On its website, Flirtey says it is “the premier independent drone delivery service in the world. Flirtey helps businesses to unlock new markets, drive sales, pioneer instant delivery, and replace a costly and cumbersome logistics network. Partner with us to future-proof your delivery system.”

The Slurpee delivery, of course, begs the question on everyone’s mind these days: When will Amazon roll out its rumored fleet of drones to carry packages here and there across America? According to the Amazon Prime Air website, that day could be just around the bend:

We’re excited about Prime Air — a future delivery system from Amazon designed to safely get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using small unmanned aerial vehicles, also called drones. Prime Air has great potential to enhance the services we already provide to millions of customers by providing rapid parcel delivery that will also increase the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation system. Putting Prime Air into service will take some time, but we will deploy when we have the regulatory support needed to realize our vision.

It’s unclear when and if drone deliveries will become reality. While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently spelled out finalized rules that allow small commercial drone use, these UAVs, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, must still stay within the operator’s line of sight and can only fly during daylight and twilight hours.

In other words, if you’re craving something from 7-Eleven after sunset, you’ll have to get yourself up off that couch and drive to the nearest store.

Photo: A small remote-controlled drone hovers in the sky during a meet-up of the DC Area Drone User Group in Middletown, Maryland, on Feb. 1, 2014. (Robert Macpherson/AFP/Getty Images)


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