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Flirtey delivers drugs by drone from ship to shore in New Jersey

TechCrunch TechCrunch 23/06/2016 Lora Kolodny

The Jersey Shore is finally famous for something besides fake tanning.

A Reno, Nevada-based startup called Flirtey Inc. conducted the first domestic “ship to shore” drone delivery this week along the New Jersey coastline. The company’s proprietary drone is a six-rotor system constructed from carbon fiber, aluminum and 3-d printed components.

No, they weren’t delivering Domino’s pizzas or anything for Amazon Prime. The company was demonstrating its ability to deliver medical supplies and samples by drone from a barge on choppy waters, to an onshore medical camp.

Specifically, on the first leg of the trip, Johns Hopkins pathologists who were collaborating with Flirtey, loaded up the delivery drone with stool, blood and urine samples, which were delivered from land to a medical testing facility on the barge.

On the second leg of its trip, researchers on the barge sent water purification tablets, insulin and a first aid kit back to shore.

The hope is that one day, private sector drone delivery services like Flirtey and government agencies will be able to use drones to transport crucial life-saving supplies to places where people are stranded, but damaged roads or lack of roads will not allow ground delivery and it wouldn’t be safe for a ship to dock or for a pilot to land.

Geographically, Flirtey’s drone took off from a barge in New Jersey’s Delaware Bay, and flew across the Cape May Canal to drop off its precious cargo at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal. The flight was FAA-approved.

Witnesses of the historic demonstration by Flirtey included: members of a disaster preparedness nonprofit called the Field Innovation Team, which helped organize the event, and of the United Nations’ humanitarian assistance office (UNOCHA) as well as other researchers and partners from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Ryan Media Lab.

According to Flirtey representatives, the Smithsonian Institution accepted the company’s drone for its Air and Space Museum, which is where visitors can also see the Space Shuttle Discovery and the Wright Flyer.

Co-founder and CEO of Flirtey Matt Sweeney said:

“Ship to shore drone delivery fills a humanitarian need, but is also something that commercial shippers want. We think the next major step for the industry is to do commercial drone delivery to a customer’s home.”

Flirtey’s news comes just after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) issued new operational rules for the commercial use of small, unmanned aircraft systems in U.S. airspace.

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