Drone Express Establishes the Nation’s First UAV Delivery Hub in Denver, Colorado

You can add Denver, CO to the growing list of US cities where FAA-approved drones can fly on a Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) basis to deliver store goods and groceries to local residents.   While most of these cities are located in Texas, North Carolina and Arkansas – with drone companies like Drone Up, Wing and Zipline making the flights – the mile-high city operation is being managed by a relative newcomer, Drone Express, which just moved its headquarters to Denver from Dayton, OH.

Drone Express is a much smaller company than its competitors, with a valuation of just $60 million, though the next round of funding could boost that total fourfold, senior officials say.  The company has a total of 27 employees, including six currently in Denver.  The remainder are still back in Dayton, where Drone Express was founded in 2021.

This is not the company’s first rodeo.  After its founding, it partnered with the Kroger’s grocery chain to start making store deliveries in the Dayton area, and with Papa John’s International in Atlanta.  The company also plans to expand overseas.  Its deliveries to Sindalah Island off Saudi Arabia’s northwestern shore will commence later this year, officials say.  There’s also a new office in Madrid, Spain which will backstop the company’s deliveries in surrounding suburbs.

Drone Express chose Denver because the city is a major hub for airline traffic and is also home to several aviation-related companies, including manufacturers.  “There is a lot of talent to pull from,”  Brandon Mabey, the company’s chief strategy officer, says.

Although the company is just a few years old, it has well over a decade of experience in technology development.  The company’s predecessor, Telegrid, developed secure communications equipment, both wired and wireless, for the U.S. military.  Telegrid is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Drone Express and  manufactures the company’s drone fleet.

Most Drone Express UAV have six propellers with a wingspan of 3 feet. Their payload of 10 pounds allows them to carry more than the usual amount of store goods and groceries.  For larger amounts of product, the company sends two or more drones to the same location.  The drones have a flight range of 5 miles on a single charge.

Another important drone feature is their weather resistance, a critical factor in a city where winds, especially, are highly variable and disruptive.  The company’s drones can fly in winds of up to 60 knots, or 69 mph, which far surpasses the capacity of its leading drone rivals.

Mabery says the company is especially proud of its advanced in-flight navigation system, which allows for obstacle avoidance and inter-drone communication, without relying on cellular networks.  “It’s really a communications network that allows drones to talk to each other in real time and form an ad hoc network so they can share information,” company CEO Beth Flippo says.

So far, Drone Express has only trialed a few delivery runs in the Denver area.  Once the test phase is completed, the company will begin full-scale deliveries, probably in early summer.

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