Who needs an ice cream truck when you can have an ice cream drone? Lucky residents of a few cities in North Carolina and Texas can have it.
Ahead of National Ice Cream Day this coming Sunday (or any day this summer), you might just want to summon your own ice cream drone. And it’s all possible thanks to a partnership between drone delivery company Flytrex and The Ice Cream Shop, which is a digital storefront from Unilever. Unilever is the parent company of a handful of ice cream brands including Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Good Humor, Klondike, Magnum ice cream, Popsicle and Talenti.
The duo teamed up in late May to leverage Flytrex’s experience in conducting fast deliveries of food via drone. Unilever provides the ice cream. Flytrex has also looped in its existing partner, Causey Aviation Unmanned, which is especially useful because it holds an Federal Aviation Administration waiver allowing a delivery radius of one nautical mile, and expanding the amount of potential homes Flytrex can reach to more than a thousand.
The ice cream delivery is available in all of Flytrex’s U.S. locations, which for now are:
- Fayetteville, North Carolina
- Holly Springs, North Carolina
- Raeford, North Carolina
- Granbury, Texas
If you’re a resident of one of those cities, then you’re able to place an order using the Flytrex app. Once you do, staff members package up your ice cream and load it on the drone. And don’t worry about your ice cream melting. Flytrex drone flights clock in under three minutes (drones can fly up to approximately 5 miles roundtrip, generally flying at 32 mph). Once at your house, the ice cream is lowered by a wire into your front or backyard, with the drone remaining hovering overhead.
If you live in an eligible area and want to get in on the ice cream drone deliveries, you can place it through the Flytrex app. Even better: in most cases you just pay for the food, but the delivery itself is free.
Drones aren’t the only form of tech that Unilever is leveraging for deliveries. The Ice Cream Shop has also partnered with automated “store on wheels” platform Robomart to deploy a fleet of robotic vehicles for ice cream delivery this summer.
Santa Monica, Calif.-based Robomart’s mobile mini-marts will carry ice cream to you, which you can hail using Robomart’s proprietary mobile app and patented one-tap grocery ordering technology. You’ll be able to summon the rover and — upon arrival — swipe across the app to open the vehicle’s door and handpick your ice cream of choice. Sensors can detect what you grabbed and charge your card, which you’ll have to sync to the app.
The fact that Unilever is turning to both drones and rovers supports the growing narrative that tech companies are certainly interested in drones, but they want all sorts of robots, too. In fact, a DroneAnalyst report found that 17% of organizations or companies with drone programs have already purchased at least one other type of robotics system. An additional 22% say they at least have plans to do so.
The latest for Flytrex, and how it fits into the drone delivery narrative
Flytrex is targeting most of its drone delivery projects around food deliveries specifically. The company recently launched in Granbury, Texas, just outside of Dallas-Fort Worth, which is not far from where Wing conducts drone deliveries in Frisco, Texas. For its Texas delivery launch, Flytrex offered to bring you items from Chili’s and Maggiano’s Little Italy.
Its North Carolina operations have been in place in 2020, and Flytrex claims it has conducted more deliveries via drone than any other company in the U.S. (though Zipline likely holds the title of most drone deliveries conducted worldwide). In North Carolina, you can order from a myriad of restaurants — mostly fast food joints — including Burger King, McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Starbucks. While the flight time is short, most deliveries still take about 30 minutes to account for the time to prepare the food.
Most other major drone companies are focusing on medical deliveries, such as Zipline, which made a name for itself delivering vaccines and emergency medical supplies to hard-to-reach areas mostly on the African continent. Zipline is on a mission to solidify its position as No. 1 drone delivering company. Just last month it announced a major technological improvement that could set its drones above the rest with the launch of a new Detection and Avoidance (DAA) system.
Another major drone delivery player, Wingcopter, just got a boost last month after sharing that it had secured $42 million in its latest funding round.