Mar 30, 2022 - Economy & Business

Look up: Your burrito is arriving by drone

Image of a young child and his mother, running to greet a meal dropped by a Flytrex drone.

Flytrex drones deliver food from nearby restaurants within about 3 minutes. Photo courtesy of Flytrex

One of the first companies to deliver food by drone in the U.S. is expanding to Texas, where residents of Granbury, outside Dallas-Fort Worth, will be able to satisfy their cravings with a drone-dropped meal in about 5 minutes.

Why it matters: Drone delivery, still a novelty in the U.S. because of regulatory limits, could address America's growing demand for instant gratification while making roads safer and less congested.

Driving the news: Flytrex, an Israeli startup already making drone deliveries in North Carolina under a pilot program, is establishing a new outpost in Granbury.

  • It's part of an expanded partnership with Dallas-based restaurant chain Brinker International, the parent of Chili's Grill & Bar, Maggiano’s Little Italy and two carryout brands, It’s Just Wings and Maggiano’s Italian Classics.

How it works: Co-founder and CEO Yariv Bash describes Flytrex service as "DoorDash, but with drones."

  • Customers use the Flytrex app to place their order from the menus of participating restaurants. In Granbury, they're starting with It's Just Wings.
  • Flytrex employees, working out of a parking lot, grab the food, clip the bag to a cable and load it into the drone delivery box. It can handle up to 6.6 pounds — enough for a family meal of burgers, fries and beverages, or a mother lode of wings.
  • The drone flies autonomously to the destination, which must be within a mile of the takeoff location, while a trained drone operator monitors the flight.
  • Upon arrival, the drone hovers about 80 feet off the ground, lowers the bag to the ground via cable, then releases the clip. (Hangry customers never interact directly with the drone.)

Where it stands: Flytrex's expansion into Texas comes on the heels of it receiving a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration to expand its service to 10,000 homes across North Carolina.

  • The company currently operates in three North Carolina communities: Fayetteville, Raeford and Holly Springs.
  • Last year, it delivered more than 12,000 items from restaurants and retailers.

What to watch: The FAA is working on regulations that would permit drones to fly longer distances — beyond the line of sight of the operator, which would clear a major hurdle for more widespread deliveries.

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