"World's first" drone delivery service launches in Australia

News: a Sydney company has launched a book delivery service that employs flying robots instead of postmen, and declared that "commercial drones are going to become as ubiquitous as aeroplanes" (+ movie).

Flying drones to deliver text books

Sydney startup Flirtey has teamed up with text book rental service Zookal to use hexacopters - robots with six rotors - to deliver study materials. The service aims to reduce postal costs and avoid the problem of missed deliveries by tracking the location of the recipient's mobile phone.

"Flirtey is the world's first unmanned aerial vehicle delivery technology," says Flirtey co-founder Matthew Sweeney in a movie about the initiative (top). "We're taking technology that was previously only available to the military and universities, democratising it and commercialising it so that anybody can order any goods or services and have them flown straight to their smartphone."

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"Currently in Australia same-day delivery by post cost eight to 20 [Australian] dollars," he continues. "By Flirtey it will cost a fraction of that and the consumer won't have to cover it because it will be included in the marketing budget of the companies that we partner with."

Books are ordered using a smartphone app, then Zookal packages them before they're flown to the customer's phone rather than their address.

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"Commercial drones are going to become as ubiquitous as aeroplanes in the sky are right now," said Flirtey co-founder and Zookal CEO Ahmed Haider.

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Six battery-powered rotors control flight, which can continue even when one isn't working. "We've built the Flirtey as a hexacopter, so it can lose any one rotor and still fly, and can lose any one battery and still fly," said Sweeney.

Haider mentions another safety feature: "When the Flirtey arrives to its location it levitates above the location and lowers the parcel to the consumer. If there is anyone that pulls it a little too hard the parcel comes off, keeping the Flirtey safe and ready to go."

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Sweeney explains that the civil aviation authority in Australia was one of the first in the world to legalise commercial flights by unmanned aerial vehicles, adding that the USA isn't due to follow until 2015.

This gives the startup the opportunity to hone the technology over the next few years, ready to export worldwide.

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Drones are increasingly being used to carry out day-to-day tasks, including guiding people around complex urban environments.