7-Eleven makes history with consumer drone delivery

Discussion
Photo: 7-Eleven
Jul 25, 2016

Beating Amazon.com to the punch, 7-Eleven has launched the first drone that legally delivered a package to a U.S. resident who placed an order from a retailer.

Working with Flirtey, the drone delivery company that completed the first FAA-sanctioned drone delivery in the U.S. last year, two deliveries were completed from a 7‑Eleven store to a local customer’s house in Reno, Nevada. Flown autonomously using GPS, the drone reached the house in a few minutes. Once in the family’s backyard, the drone “hovered in place and gently lowered” each package. Products included Slurpee drinks, a chicken sandwich, doughnuts, hot coffee and 7-Select candy.

“My wife and I both work and have three small children ages seven, six and one. The convenience of having access to instant, 24/7 drone delivery is priceless,” said Reno resident Michael, who received the delivery, in a statement. “It’s amazing that a flying robot just delivered us food and drinks in a matter of minutes.”

Flirtey teamed with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) to secure FAA-approval. Special flight planning, risk analysis and detailed flight procedures ensuring residential safety and privacy were all involved.

The c-store giant doesn’t do a big online delivery business, but has partnered with Postmates in eight major cities as well as Tapingo to deliver packages to about 100 college campuses. Drone delivery tests with Flirtey and 7-Eleven will continue.

“We plan to make the entire assortment in our stores available for delivery to customers in minutes,” said 7‑Eleven EVP and chief merchandising officer Jesus H. Delgado-Jenkins. “Our customers have demanding schedules, are on-the-go 24/7 and turn to us to help navigate the challenges of their daily lives.”

In June, the FAA updated its regulations for small drones. Stipulations such as pilots needing to see the drone in their line of sight while flying essentially prohibited drone deliveries. But the FAA is expected to make another rules update in late August that could clarify the requirements for drone delivery.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are you more optimistic about the prospects of commercial drone delivery than a year ago? Do you see drone delivery at least gaining regulatory approval in some remote areas?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Cool publicity stunt, but certainly not a sustainable business model."
"Next I see registering flight plans, air traffic control, then some type of security. The list goes on and the cost goes up."
"Seriously friends? Are you really planning to call 7-Eleven and have a Slurpee and chicken sandwich delivered by a drone?"

Join the Discussion!

17 Comments on "7-Eleven makes history with consumer drone delivery"


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Max Goldberg
Guest

This was a big first step for drone delivery, and I expect to see more, especially in rural areas. That said, there are still a myriad of issues to be worked out before drone delivery becomes common, so don’t look for drone delivery in urban areas any time soon.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Raise your hand if you think that customers will be getting drone deliveries of $1.69 Slurpees. … I didn’t think so either.

Cool publicity stunt, but certainly not a sustainable business model. I’ll be interested in hearing what my fellow panelists think a successful model looks like.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff
Patricia Vekich Waldron
Contributing Editor, RetailWire; Founder and CEO, Vision First
5 years 9 months ago

Sounds like they are trying to compete with UBEREats … good luck with that!

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

**cough, cough** publicity stunt … Right up there with the IoT tea kettle you can turn on from your smartphone. The rush to replace mom with things like this and many IoT devices may get clicks but there’s no way this is profitable or scaleable or will be soon.

Mohamed Amer, PhD
BrainTrust
Mohamed Amer, PhD
Independent Board Member, Investor and Startup Advisor
5 years 9 months ago

When it comes to drone delivery, we’re still in the “gee whiz” stage — naive astonishment and wonderment at the application of technology.

I’m no more or less optimistic than a year ago — drone delivery is inevitable. the only question is how long until it happens and the path we take to get there. There’ll be more aha moments and some “I told you so” moments, but eventually we’ll all be wondering why drone delivery (and other yet to be considered mechanisms) took so long to get here.

Herb Sorensen
BrainTrust

There are THREE components to retail sales: 1. The “meeting of the minds” of the buyer and seller — agreement to buy; 2. Delivery of the goods from the seller to the buyer; 3. Payment from the seller to the buyer. All three of these are in 20th century to 21st century evolution, with technology sure to further impact the process. Things like drone delivery are certain to evolve for some fraction of retail. Payments are likely to transcend the delivery process, tied to either the meeting of minds OR delivery. Meeting of the minds will ALWAYS remain the linchpin of retail. Hence my continuing focus on “Inside the Mind of the Shopper,” with the new second edition due for release VERY SOON!

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

If we are logical for a moment, this question answers itself.

One drone delivering a burrito is great publicity and cost prohibitive.

If it proves so popular that soon you have ten drones delivering burritos, or hundreds or thousands as other retailers get in on the act the air will be full of flying belly-fill and drones will be colliding with each other and falling out of the skies like oak leaves in autumn.

Oh … and yes … it will still be cost inefficient to deliver that Big Gulp.

This is a case where more isn’t merrier and too much success will launch a tsunami of consumer pushback, negative media attention and over-regulation.

As a marketing stunt it may be OK but drones, I fear, are likely to quickly become victims of their own success.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Doing something and making money at doing it are two very different things. I agree with the other members of the panel. Nice publicity stunt, but …

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest

Seriously friends? Are you really planning to call 7-Eleven and have a Slurpee and chicken sandwich delivered by a drone? Nice gimmicky attention-getter. It will draw attention and many raised eyebrows, including mine. The better point is the technology is here to make things like this possible. But not for a chicken sandwich.

Karen S. Herman
BrainTrust

Way to go, Flirtey! Offering a proprietary drone service to 7-Eleven and surveying households within one mile to find willing customers is an aggressive strategy. Upstaging Amazon is a brilliant strategy. Drone deliveries are already happening in other parts of the world. Certainly they will take off here.

Lee Kent
Guest

Next I see registering flight plans, air traffic control, then some type of security. The list goes on and the cost goes up.

Fun to think about but I don’t think retail customer delivery will be the first use cases. More likely medical supplies, military use, etc., until they get the logistics worked out.

But that’s just my 2 cents.

Ben Ball
Guest

In the “simply for what it’s worth” camp — I think this is going to happen much faster than imagined. The key variable is the actual application. Delivering Slurpees five miles to a consumer’s backyard? Maybe not so much. Delivering say, Jimmy John’s sandwiches to a designated office building pickup location? Much more viable. And as for cost — Jimmy John’s is already sending a driver with as little as one sandwich to my office. Drones just gotta be cheaper!

Tony Orlando
Guest

It amazes me in a good way to see the crazy stunts businesses do to try to win you over, but that precarious word “bottom-line” is not factored into this, as the costs are way too high. I’m curious to see what is next since I love outrageous advertising for my own amusement. I’ve done some fun stuff at my store but, for the most part, made a good profit doing so. In this case, the publicity far outweighs the profit motive. I just don’t see this drone deal working, except maybe for Amazon in the city, but I enjoy seeing the show and I’m looking forward to the next big thing as it is entertaining.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

I agree with the comments by Ryan Mathews, who logically pointed out the problems: cost prohibitive, cluttered skies, aerial accidents, etc. To that list I would bluntly add that the notion of drone deliveries is just stupid unless it is for medicine in remote areas. Are consumers so time pressed that they really need drones to deliver products to their homes? Maybe their lives are too damn busy. Maybe they need to sit quietly in a dark room and reconsider their priorities and lifestyle.

Enough with pontificating about the supposed advantages of drone deliveries in today’s ultra-sophisticated world. This is technology running amok.

Dan Raftery
Guest

Still skeptical here. Not sure the business model has been thought through. Definitely a publicity stunt, but one that could be easily out-gunned tomorrow. Good to see progress in the FAA rules department, which of course will also not last should a drone cause an aircraft incident. Yup, skeptical.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Not “optimistic” then, and not now either; I am however “realistic.” I think it may have a lifted usefulness in — as the question phrased it — “some remote areas.” Of course this has about as much applicability to the retail world as would a clearance sale on plutonium. Medical supplies and express orders in deserts and plains, yes; 1 hour hairspray in Manhattan, no.

oevae
Guest
5 years 9 months ago

Anything about the… uh, landing or flight distance?

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Cool publicity stunt, but certainly not a sustainable business model."
"Next I see registering flight plans, air traffic control, then some type of security. The list goes on and the cost goes up."
"Seriously friends? Are you really planning to call 7-Eleven and have a Slurpee and chicken sandwich delivered by a drone?"

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