Drone Delivery Company Conducts City of Reno’s First FAA-Approved Multi-Drone Flight

Flirtey made use of a UAV fleet to ship defibrillators in the Nevada town on Wednesday.

byMarco Margaritoff|
Drone Delivery Company Conducts City of Reno’s First FAA-Approved Multi-Drone Flight

Drone delivery company Flirtey has officially conducted its first drone flights in Reno, Nevada, as part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program on Wednesday. 

According to the City of Reno's press release, these were the first multi-drone delivery flights conducted under the federal initiative. The landmark demonstration had one operator pilot multiple Flirtey drones simultaneously, simulating the delivery of automated external defibrillators for the proposed implementation of standardized aerial AED deliveries once federal commercial drone regulations are written into law. 

The UAS IPP is a federal FAA initiative giving 10 select states and various corporate entities the benefit of loosened drone flight regulations so that they can thoroughly test their unmanned aerial projects to amass functionality and safety data for the potential expansion and integration of commercial drone traffic into national airspace. 

For the City of Reno, seeing Flirtey successfully conduct the program’s first multi-drone flights is a boon. Not only is it a positive sign for the company, which was granted the regulator waiver to conduct these multi-drone missions due to its leading aerial safety technology, but also for the IPP program itself. Additionally, should these aerial AED deliveries be standardized as a result of these fruitful trial phases, the project could feasibly save lives that would otherwise unnecessarily perish.

“Flirtey just demonstrated deliveries with multiple drones per pilot for the first time, which is a major milestone toward scaling drone delivery nationwide,” said Flirtey CEO Matthew Sweeny. “We’re excited to be working with our partners and the FAA to save lives and improve lifestyles with Flirtey’s drone delivery.” 

Practically, the company used its next-generation drones, which are capable of carrying heavier payloads for longer distances than previous iterations. The simulated payloads in Wednesday’s test would, in the future, be comprised of medicine, blood samples, and more. 

We’ve reported on aerial defibrillator deliveries before, namely when the Swedish Transportation Agency partnered with Karolinska Institute for trial tests in Sweden last summer. In terms of aerial medical deliveries, in general, there’s a wide swath of concurrent testing occurring across the globe, with Matternet and Zipline collaborating stateside with Flytrex in North Carolina

“The City of Reno is proud to partner with Flirtey, the FAA, and our local IPP partners to test drone delivery of AEDs to Washoe County residents,” said Mayor Hillary Schieve. “Public safety is our top priority, and the use of drones to provide life-saving AED technology to cardiac patients could reduce the number of deaths from cardiac arrest in northern Nevada.”

To Mayor Schieve’s point, using drones to deliver defibrillators could be an invaluable alternative to the conventional, ground-based model that has ambulances restricted to heavy traffic and non-direct routes. By going aerial, drones can travel directly from one point to another and forego traditional infrastructure entirely. 

For the United States, where cardiac arrest is the leading cause of natural death, that’s an enormous proposition. Unfortunately, every passing minute that a cardiac arrest patient waits for defibrillation lowers their chances of survival by 10 percent. Hence, this is a strong reminder that drones, their correlated guidance systems, and supportive legislation could feasibly save a vast number of lives across the country.