by Patrick J. Paul

On October 21, 2021, Phoenix, Arizona-based Mesa Air and Reno, NV-based Flirtey  announced an agreement under which Mesa will purchase four delivery drones with options to purchase an additional 500 over the next four years in an effort to expand drone delivery service in the U.S.

Initially, Mesa and Flirtey will test home delivery of food and beverages via drones in Nevada by year-end while it contemplates broader expansion across the U.S.  The immediate goal of the partnership is to conduct commercial drone deliveries in the last-mile food and beverage market in the U.S. Additionally, the parties plan to expand the drone delivery service in New Zealand.  Here’s a video on how the drone delivery is anticipated to work: Delivery Prototype   

Increasingly, developers of new air transport technology such as drones and air taxis are joining with established aviation companies including airlines and helicopter operators to navigate regulatory hurdles which include demonstrating how delivery drones can be operated safely over urban areas. Proponents tout their cost effectiveness and environmental sensitivity when compared to traditional fossil fuel delivery vehicles. 

The Flirtey drones can carry up to 8 pounds, roughly the equivalent of four large pizzas.  Initial drone delivery costs are anticipated to be similar to conventional delivery modes but ultimately cheaper when scaled up.  Early drone deliveries are intended to take no more than 10 minutes within a 3 mile radius.

With this agreement, Flirtey, the aircraft designer and manufacturer, is supplying its best-in-class technology including the Flirtey Eagle, an electric-powered, advanced drone that conducts precision delivery to homes and businesses, and Flirtey’s autonomous software platform that conducts autonomous flight operations, for Mesa to operate commercial drone delivery.  The partnership will utilize Mesa’s operational experience as a leading regional air carrier with approximately 450 daily departures across the U.S. and Flirtey’s technical experience having conducted over 6,000 drone delivery flights in the U.S.