For one brief shining moment, commercial drones are now legal in U.S. skies, thanks to a court decision this month that slapped down the Federal Aviation Administration’s attempt to ground them.
A San Francisco company has leaped on the opportunity, gearing up to offer drone delivery of drugstore items in the Mission.
QuiQui, pronounced Quicky, said on its website that it’s been working on its idea for two years, and was taken by surprise when the FAA lost its lawsuit. Its drones will fly below 500 feet, for a $1/delivery fee and will operate 24 hours a day — with orders arriving in less than 15 minutes, it said.
CEO and founder Joshua Ziering said that he’s a life-long aviation nut. “I am crazy about airplanes, crazy about helicopters; then in the past five years, drones came out and I’m crazy about drones,” he said.
Does he have his own drones? “I have a fleet of model aircraft; I’m embarrassed to disclose the number, probably 20 or 30.”
Ziering, 28, said the boot-strapped company has a team of four, some of whom have day jobs. It hopes to launch the service by July — unless the FAA steps in to shut it down. It’s seeking investors. QuiQui plans to have three or four drones that it will spend a few thousand dollars each to develop.
The drones won’t alight on your doorstep. Instead, they will stay at least 20 feet in the air to avoid bumping into people or “anything nefarious” happening — like damage to a drone or theft of a drone or its contents. When a drone arrives at a delivery site, “your phone will buzz, saying your delivery is here,” Ziering said. “You go outside and swipe to tell it to drop your order. It will drop it and then fly away. I kind of want it to beep like Roadrunner and then fly.”
QuiQui is launching with drugstore deliveries because that’s “the most economically viable option with the most consumer pain,” the website said. “Nobody likes going when they’re sick because they don’t feel well, and nobody likes going when they’re well because there are a lot of sick people there.”
Also medicine and sundries are lightweight. “If a toothbrush falls from 20 feet it won’t hurt anyone,” he said.
One big issue to resolve, Ziering said: “How do you deal with regulated substances? We don’t want someone flying around oxycontin.” QuiQui says it is working with pharmacies to offer the service. Ziering declined to name any names.
The Mission’s lack of tall buildings and relative flatness made its aerial mapping easier — and also most of its founders live there, it wrote.
The folks who hate the Google buses are unlikely to be receptive to miniature flying robots cruising their neighborhood, it acknowledged. “We know that gentrification is a hot topic in The Mission and we want to be sensitive to that. … We’ve worked extra hard to make sure our drones are quiet and respectful of the neighborhood. For example, we avoid schools and parks on our flight paths.”
SF Gate: http://blog.sfgate.com/techchron/2014/03/13/drones-to-delivery-drugstore-items-in-the-mission/