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Technology/Services

7-Eleven Seeks to ‘Redefine Convenience’ With Drones

First autonomous delivery to a home is ‘giant leap’ toward lofty goal

RENO, Nev. – After achieving what it says is the first fully autonomous drone delivery to a customer’s residence, 7-Eleven Inc. plans to eventually make the entire assortment of merchandise in its convenience stores available via an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

7-Eleven Flirtey drone

The retailer conducted this delivery in celebration of the chain’s 89th birthday. The company did not indicate when drone delivery would become available officially.

“At this time, we do not have specific timing on national rollout. In the future, we look forward to making drone deliveries from our stores,” a 7-Eleven spokesperson told CSPDailyNews.

As reported in a McLane/CSP Daily News Flash, the retailer is working with Flirtey, an independent drone delivery service, and plans to expand drone tests.

From a Reno, Nevada, 7-Eleven convenience store, a Flirtey drone completed two deliveries July 10. Merchandise including hot and cold food items were loaded into a drone delivery container and flown autonomously using precision GPS to a customer’s house.

Once at the family’s backyard, the Flirtey drone hovered in place and gently lowered each package. It delivered the purchases to the family in the span of a few minutes, the companies said.

Products included Slurpees, a chicken sandwich, doughnuts, hot coffee and 7-Select candy.

Eventually, both companies expect drone packages to include “everyday essentials” such as batteries and sunscreen.

“It’s amazing that a flying robot just delivered us food and drinks in a matter of minutes,” said Reno resident Michael, who received the Flirtey delivery. “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.” 

“Drone delivery is the ultimate convenience for our customers and these efforts create enormous opportunities to redefine convenience,” said 7-Eleven executive vice president and chief merchandising officer Jesus Delgado-Jenkins. “This delivery marks the first time a retailer has worked with a drone delivery company to transport immediate consumables from store to home. In the future, we plan to make the entire assortment in our stores available for delivery to customers in minutes. Our customers have demanding schedules, are on the go 24/7 and turn to us to help navigate the challenges of their daily lives. We look forward to working with Flirtey to deliver to our customers exactly what they need, whenever and wherever they need it.”

Flirtey teamed with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) for the delivery.

“This delivery required special flight planning, risk analysis and detailed flight procedures ensuring residential safety and privacy were equally integrated,” said Chris Walach, director of operations for NIAS.

The deliveries also mark Flirtey’s largest commercial relationship to date and bring the drone delivery startup closer to its vision of “reinventing the delivery process for humanitarian, online retail and food delivery industries,” it said.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to have 7-Eleven, the largest convenience chain in the world, embracing new technologies and working with us at Flirtey to make drone delivery a reality for customers all over the world,” said Matt Sweeny, CEO of Reno, Nev.-based Flirtey. “This is just the first step in our collaboration with 7-Eleven. Flirtey’s historic drone deliveries to date have been stepping stones to store-to-home drone delivery, and today is a giant leap toward a not-too-distant future where we are delivering you convenience on demand.”

The drone delivery phenomenon is still in its infancy. Amazon announced plans to begin testing drones in late 2013. “We will deploy when and where we have the regulatory support needed to safely realize our vision,” the company said.

Flirtey completed the first fully autonomous, U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved urban drone delivery in the United States in March, it said. The FAA finalized the first operational rules for routine commercial use of drones in June.

Based in Irving, Texas, 7-Eleven operates, franchises and licenses more than 10,700 7‑Eleven convenience stores in North America. Globally, approximately 59,500 7-Eleven stores serve customers in 17 countries.

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