FAA Grounds Valentine's Flower Delivery Drone
COMMERCE TWP. (WWJ) -- A Commerce Township floral delivery company says the Federal Aviation Administration has grounded its experiment in delivering flowers by unmanned mini-helicopter.
FlowerDeliveryExpress.com said the FAA has informed them that commercial drone use is only allowed on a pre-authorized, case-by-case basis -- and told the company to knock it off.
"Cupid's wings have been clipped," said the company's CEO, Wesley Berry.
But at least the FAA was nice about it, Berry said. "The FAA was extremely professional and polite," he said. "I couldn't have been chastised in a nicer way."
Berry said he agreed with the FAA's characterization of delivery drones as "flying food processors" and that drone delivery operators probably need regulation -- like training to avoid mishaps and insurance should they occur.
FlowerDeliveryExpress.com had intended to deliver as many free rose bouquets as possible to its beta test group on Valentine's Day to benchmark the delivery capacity of its drone. The company currently uses traditional delivery methods to serve several million other customers across the country.
Berry said the FAA didn't tell him when they might come up with regulations that would allow drone delivery -- but said the FAA told him it is "actively working on it. This technology is here to stay. When the time is right, we'll be ready for orders to be delivered, not by an address, but by GPS coordinates. It's exciting to plan the future of the business based on this emerging technology."
Berry's other delivery methods in development include trucks carrying pre-made bouquets for rapid delivery.
FlowerDeliveryExpress.com has launched a consumer beta program to test alternative delivery methods and other development efforts. Consumers can sign up for the beta test group at www.FlowerDeliveryExpress.com/beta. Participation is not guaranteed, and you must be a U.S. resident.
The drone flower delivery, which took place Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 in metro Detroit, can be viewed on YouTube here: http://bit.ly/1lXLQgn.
Berry also owns Wesley Berry Flowers, a Detroit-based brick-and-mortar florist established by his family in 1946. The company has four stores, including one downtown in the Penobscot Building and another in the Schoolcraft-Greenfield area of Detroit. But Berry said that 98 percent of his company's business is now done via the website.
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