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New Methods Taking Flight To Deliver Products To Stores And Front Doors

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - In the age of online shopping, we expect to find packages on our doorsteps. But there's a growing buzz over how those deliveries get there.

Instead of relying on trucks, some big names in business are testing the skies, including a company based in Fort Worth.

Bell Flight is in the process of flight testing its APT-70, which stands for "autonomous pod transport."

Autonomous pod transport being tested by Bell Flight
Autonomous pod transport being tested by Bell Flight (CBS 11)

The company said the drone travels three times faster than a ground vehicle. It can carry a load for 35 miles up to speeds of 100 miles per hour.

"It's going to provide a level of service we never realized we wanted or needed," said John Wittmaak, a program manager at Bell Flight. "Ultimately, the carrier can carry 70 pounds of anything you want to carry, anything from water to food to packages to medicine."

APT-70 is not on the market yet, but Wittmaak said the idea is that the drone could allow third-party logistics companies and retailers to move inventory without braving traffic.

"It's Christmastime, there's a lot of inventory located at different stores and hubs," Wittmaak said. "This vehicle would allow that store, even if they don't have the inventory, to reposition to somewhere closest to your home."

While Bell is not focused on home deliveries, other companies are.

Amazon unveiled the latest iteration of its drone Prime Air earlier this year, while the Google-owned company, Wing, is testing a pilot program in Virginia, alongside Walgreens and FedEx.

FedEx delivery drone testing
FedEx delivery drone testing (CBS 11)

CBS News reports the pilot program in Virginia received FAA clearance, but U.S. regulators are still creating rules for where and when these drones can operate across the country.

"We're in unchartered territory relative to designing and developing policy around...drones flying over people's houses, in specific communities," said Joe Stephens, the senior vice president of global planning, engineering and properties at FedEx Express.

It could be years before the technology takes off nationwide. Bell said it plans to use APT-70 not only for commercial uses, but for relief and military missions as well.

Bell is planning its first test flight over an urban area next summer.

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