Buzzing Over BDS, Israeli Firm Launches World's First Drone Delivery Service

Tech company Flytrex partnered with Iceland's largest online marketplace to provide the service, though Reykjavik passed a blanket boycott of Israel

Maron Kristofersson, chief executive officer of Aha, removes a package from a drone manufactured by Flytrex in Reykjavםk, Iceland on Friday August 25, 2017.
Arnaldur Haldorsson/Bloomberg

Impatient Icelanders are getting help from an Israeli startup that began delivering small orders like takeout food by drone last week in a partnership with AHA, Iceland’s largest instant delivery platform.

The drones, technically hexacopters, were approved by the Icelandic Transport Authority to pick up orders from restaurants and stores on one side of Reykjavik, where AHA has its offices, and fly them to a drop-off point in the suburb of Grafarvogur.

While Flytrex and AHA don’t offer direct store-to-home-delivery, the companies said that even on a trial basis the service would slash waiting times in a city whose bay delivery trucks must skirt to reach their destinations. A drone cuts delivery times by flying across the water to a truck that will complete the delivery.

“Over the last four years we have been monitoring online delivery solution technologies around the globe, and feel that Flytrex has a smart, safe and commercially viable solution to the problem. We hope to co-operate with them not only in Iceland, but also internationally in the future,” AHA CEO Maron Kristofersson wrote in a blog posted by Flytrex.

AHA has been delivering goods since April 2011, using a fleet of delivery vehicles, focusing on products, groceries and restaurant food in the city of Reykjavik. 

The first deliveries, handled by a single drone, took off last Wednesday, said Flytrex, which doesn’t make drones but develops autonomous, drone-based delivery systems. The drones can carry packages weighing up to three kilograms, about the size of a mailbox, so they can only handle smaller orders or takeout food. 

The single drone now in use can make between 20 and 60 flights day. 

Flytrex, which has raised $3 million since it was founded in 2013, according to the technology website TechCrunch, has developed hardware that is installed on the drone and links it  to a cellular network via a SIM card. That enables a controller to locate, monitor its speed, altitude and other parameters in real time.

“Our goal is to reach a situation that the customer is sitting at home in his underwear, orders two beers, pays with a credit card or his Paypal account, and sees in real time on a map where the drone is,” said Bash. 

While the Flytrex-AHA tie-up is a pioneer, others have been moving in the same direction. Amazon has made a few commercial drone deliveries in Britain and the U.S. startup Flirtey was approved by federal regulators to conduct urban deliveries last year.

Flytrex founder and CEO Yariv Bash told TechCrunch that the startup is already working on a project in an area with many high-rise buildings and is currently seeking approval from regulators in a number of countries in Europe, Central America and South America.