Called “The Hive,” the Monroe facility is expected to be one of the largest in Ohio dedicated to manufacturing, testing and piloting commercial drones.
Drone Express will begin test flights this week near Kroger Market in Centerville, 1095 South Main St. Flights will be managed by licensed Drone Express pilots from an on-site trailer with additional off-site surveillance.
There will be real geographic boundaries to the delivery area in the early stages of service, Beth Flippo, TELEGRID’s chief technology officer, said Monday in an interview. (Drone Express is a division of TELEGRID.)
Drone Express will not be permitted to fly beyond the visual line of sight of a drone controller until the company obtains the necessary certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. She declined to give an exact or even estimated distance for this limit, but the company can, if it has to, deliver packages to a Drone Express employee who can then take the package to a customer outside of this limit.
“If we have to go all the way, we will,” Flippo said.
Until the company can prove that its drones are capable of detecting and avoiding manned aircraft, such as medical evacuation helicopters, service should be limited to an area of visual visibility, he said. she declared.
Kroger is advising customers within a radius of about a mile around the Centerville store of these early drone deliveries. Flippo referred to Kroger for questions about how these notifications work and who will be notified. (Kroger’s spokeswoman Erin Rolfes said her company would send direct mailings to those within a mile radius of the company’s Centerville store to give residents information about the service. )
“Dayton is a great place to test because it’s the big sky country,” she said.
Image Drone Express / Kroger
Many, if not most of the packages Amazon delivers to homes weigh around five pounds or less, Flippo said. Customers are already used to home delivery of packages of this size, Flippo said.
“It gives brick and motor stores such a head start… It’s really going to put local shopping back on the map,” she said.
Customers will choose destinations in their photos “At first we’re going to try the front yard,” Flippo said.
The Monroe facility will house the company’s unmanned air traffic control center. There, employees will oversee drone flights and commercial delivery programs, according to Drone Express. The center is in contact with the Drone Express mobile aviation trailers which house the drone pilots and are located at the site where drone delivery is offered.
Right now, the company has around five people at its Monroe site, Flippo said. Drone Express is looking to hire technicians, supply chain managers, drone pilots and many more.
“Kroger wants as many stores as we can give them in the first year,” Flippo said.
Deliveries to customers are expected to begin later this spring, and a second pilot is expected to launch this summer at a Ralphs store in California.
“Kroger’s new drone delivery pilot is part of the evolution of our innovative and rapidly growing e-commerce business – which includes pickup, delivery and shipping and has reached over $ 10 billion in sales. in 2020, “said Jody Kalmbach, Kroger’s group vice president. product experience, Kroger and TELEGRID said in a joint release. “The pilot reinforces the importance of flexibility and immediacy for customers, fueled by modern and efficient last mile solutions. We are excited to test drone delivery and gain insight that will inform expansion plans as well as future customer solutions. “
The current weight limit for drone delivery is around five pounds.
As an example of the possible service, Kroger will offer a baby care set with wipes and formula, a children’s wellness set with over-the-counter medicines and fluids, and a S’mores set with graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate. Using https://www.kroger.com/dronedelivery, customers can place orders and have eligible orders delivered in as little as 15 minutes.
“The pilot’s launch at Centerville is the culmination of months of meticulous research and development by Kroger and Drone Express to better serve and meet the needs of our customers,” said Ethan Grob, Director of Last Mile Strategy and Product. at Kroger. “We look forward to moving from test flights to customer deliveries this spring, introducing another way for our customers to experience Kroger.”
“Kroger and Drone Express have made an excellent choice in piloting this program in Centerville – a community with a strong business network focused on progress and stability near the birthplace of aviation,” said Centerville Mayor Brooks Compton. “Families here have the power to transform grocery delivery across the country and the world. We can’t wait to place our first order.