Don’t Mess With Texas: It’s Fast Becoming America’s Leading Drone Delivery Hub

Texas is fast becoming the leading US hub for food and store package deliveries via drone.

Flytrex and Causey Aviation, which received Part 135 certification from the FAA to begin remote drone deliveries later this year, recently established its headquarters in Granbury, Texas, a small suburb just south of Dallas-Ft. Worth.

The two companies have partnered with a number of prominent restaurant chains – including Chili’s and Maggiano’s – owned by Brinker’s International.  Granbury residents can order food items off the menus of the two restaurants and have them delivered to their door in less than an hour.

Two other companies – Wing, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company. Alphabet, and Drone-Up, the drone delivery partner of Walmart – are also conducting remote aerial deliveries in the Lone Star State, each of them, like Flytrx, on the outskirts of  Dallas-Fort Worth.  Indeed, all three companies are operating within a stone’s throw of each other by aviation standards, making them head-to-head competitors.

Wing’s Texas operations began almost a year ago – in September 2022 – as a partnership with Walgreens.  Residents of two small suburbs, Frisco and Little Elm – in this case, just north of Dallas-Ft. Worth – can order select items from a handful of Walgreens stores that also serve as the hangar for Wing’s delivery drones.

Meanwhile, Walmart and Drone-Up, which began their drone operations about 9 months ago – in December 2022 – are operating just a little further up the road at 11 Walmart store outlets in a handful of small North Texas cities, including Garland, Mesquite and Plano.

The FAA, which earlier granted Part 135 certification to Wing (2019) and has endorsed Drone-Up’s partnership with Iris Automation to provide extra safety to its own remote deliveries, has good reason to believe that all three companies will succeed in getting their drone operations off the ground and meeting consumer expectations where others – like Amazon, which has a drone base in College Station, TX (200 miles further south from Dallas-Ft. Worth, on the outskirts of Austin) – have largely failed so far.

Flytrex, like Wing, brings to Texas a successful track record of safe and effective drone performance overseas.  The company’s pioneering drone operations in Reykjavik, Iceland, begun back in 2017 with AHA (the country’s version of Amazon), were the first in the world to be conducted in a densely populated urban center.

Wing, meanwhile, is well-known for its long history of robust deliveries (200,000 total) in towns and cities across Australia, as well as in Finland.  And in 2019, Wing conducted the first successful commercial delivery operations in the United States – in Christiansburg, Virginia – before most other U.S. drone companies had even commenced their first flight tests.

Texas is an ideal drone hub for several reasons.  One is the state’s flat topography and arid climate, which facilitates drone flights vulnerable to rain and to hilly conditions that often disrupt aerial communications.  But Texas is also an important base for the global aerospace and aviation industry, with 15 active military bases, NASA’s world-famous Johnson Space Center, and headquarters for two international airlines as well as two of the world’s busiest airports.

Consider some of the locations where drone companies are operating:  Frisco, one of Wing’s new operating sites, has hosted several major tech companies, including Oracle and Redfin, for years.  And Plano, one of Walmart/Drone-Up’s new operating sites, is also home to AT&T’s new 5-G Innovation studio which is testing a variety of 5G-centric applications, including drones.  Texas offers tech businesses generous tax incentives and by co-locating with larger tech companies, drone start-ups can find supportive infrastructure and thousands of engineers and technicians just waiting to be hired.

And consider also Texas’ distinctive pattern of suburbanization.  Dallas-Ft.Worth, with a population of 6.5 million people, is a sprawling metroplex with dozens of fast-growing towns and cities in the 150,000 to 250,000 range.  These residential areas are large enough – and affluent enough – to provide a substantial customer base (unlike isolated rural towns like Amazon’s Lockeford, CA), but still small and dispersed enough to allow for relatively safe overflights.  Once drone delivery companies prove themselves in the Dallas-Ft. Worth hinterlands, they’ll be well-positioned – with improved safety technology and additional FAA regulatory support – to expand their operations into the core of the metropolis.

The reputation of the Lone Star State is clearly growing.  Manna, Ireland’s world-renowned drone company, has just announced its intent to establish its first US base of operations in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area (close to Wing).  The company, which received an infusion of $40 million in investment capital from Coca-Cola’s bottling distributor, is still awaiting FAA approval of its own Part 135 application.  If all goes as planned, Manna will commence its first flights – serving 10,000 customers in a 27,000-acre business and real estate park – by the end of this year.

Texas isn’t alone.  Other retail delivery hubs are emerging in a handful of other states, especially drone-friendly North Carolina, where Flytex, Wing and another company, Zipline, are conducting their own “last mile” delivery operations.  But right now, no drone delivery hub is bigger or more promising than the Lone Star state’s.

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