The New King of Drone Delivery: 7-Eleven

December 23, 2016         By: Steven Anderson

It wasn’t so long ago when we heard about Flirtey, a company that was giving 7-Eleven a real leg up in the drone delivery process and allowing people to get the very tastiest and least nutritionally-redeeming snacks at virtually any time of day without leaving the home.

Flirtey’s work with 7-Eleven hasn’t slowed down any, and now, new reports note it’s well ahead of even the biggest names like Amazon and Google.

So far, in Reno, Nevada, one month of Flirtey and 7-Eleven’s operations have yielded about 77 orders, which is pretty substantial for such a new technology. For anyone looking at this project and wondering how it’s getting anywhere given how much regulation is around this technology, the answer is simple: the 7-Eleven in question will only make deliveries within a mile of that store, making it comparatively easy to actually watch the drone in flight.

Reports suggest that 7-Eleven is planning to go wide with this approach, though just when is as yet unclear. Further delivery systems are already poised to go wide, including Google’s planned release of the “Wing Marketplace,” which will bring several food vendors from Domino’s Pizza to Starbucks on hand.

With these vendors in place, Google is set to make the final connection between restaurant and patron, handling deliveries for a $6 fee.

All of this sounds great, but with one small problem: the value. While businesses would see a value in a largely automated delivery staff that no longer needs to leave the premises—it’s a job young staffers would likely fight over—there’s less value for the customer.

Right now, FAA regulations prevent most drone deliveries unless the drone operator can physically see the drone, and cameras apparently don’t count. So delivery radii are laughably tiny, and charging $6 for such delivery is basically a bad joke.

It’s possible that Google et al are banking on a regulation-busting Trump presidency to make their industry a possibility, but if it doesn’t work, Wing Marketplace will likely collapse early on.

I eagerly await the day when I can order food from several miles away and have it delivered, still hot and fresh, by drone aircraft. Until something changes, though, we’ll all be waiting, and limited to Slim Jims and Slurpees for those already within walking distance.