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New Zealand’s laxed RPAS regulations lead to first pizza delivery

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L-R: Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeny, Domino’s Pizza CEO Don Meij, and Simon Bridges, the New Zealand Minister of Transport, with the DRU drone that will make the world’s first “commercial drone delivery service.”

 

The world’s first pizza delivery by drone will be in the Pacific Islands, but it won’t be Hawaiian. Relaxed aviation rules across New Zealand that free up the use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) have led to the announcement of the first pizza delivery by Flirtey and Domino’s.

Domino’s Pizza Enterprises announced today that they have joined forces with UAV industry innovators Flirtey to launch what they regard will be the very first commercial drone delivery service in the world. It is expected that the trial of store-to-door drone deliveries from selected Domino’s New Zealand stores will begin later in the year.

To demonstrate the technology in Auckland, the drone conducted an autonomous flight to deliver a hot Domino’s pizza. The demonstration was conducted under Civil Aviation Rules Part 101 and marks a final step in Flirtey’s approval process, following which the partnership will expand with flights to customer homes later this year from a select New Zealand store.

dru-drone-dominosDomino’s Group CEO and managing director Don Meij said they will be beginning trials with close collaboration with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), before looking to expand the technology into other regions and with other platforms.

“We are planning a phased trial approach which is based on the Civil Aviation Authority granting approval as both Domino’s and Flirtey are learning what is possible with the drone delivery for our products, but this isn’t a pie in the sky idea,” Meij said.

“It’s about working with the regulators and Flirtey to make this a reality for our customers.”

With headquarters in Brisbane, Domino’s were expected to first launch the technology in Australia. However, differences in the regulation seem to have prompted the team to instead begin operations across the Tasman.

New Zealand’s Transport Minister Simon Bridges welcomed the announcement, saying that Domino’s and Flirtey selected New Zealand to begin trials because of its regulations that support innovation.

“Our forward-thinking aviation regulations encourage innovation, while protecting safety,” said Mr Bridges. “Our enabling laws and regulation means we have the ideal environment to trial all forms of technology.”

The Civil Aviation Authority’s new aviation rules came into force on 1 August 2015 to regulate and enable the use of UAVs for recreational and commercial purposes in New Zealand.

“The announcement of this trial confirms that New Zealand’s framework for UAVs is world-class,” said Mr Bridges. “In addition, the Government has reviewed the laws for driverless vehicles and Small Passenger Service operators, to ensure New Zealand stays at the forefront of transport innovation.”

Subject to obtaining the appropriate approvals, the UAV delivery trial with the custom designed DRU drone is expected to get underway later this year. The DRU drone is constructed from carbon fibre, aluminium and 3D printed components. It is a lightweight, autonomous and electrically driven unmanned aerial vehicle that lowers its cargo via tether and has built- in safety features such as low battery return to safe location and auto-return home in case of low GPS signal or communication loss. The personal, on-demand delivery service is custom-developed by Flirtey using proprietary software and hardware.

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Dominoes’ Robotic Unit, designed to make land-based deliveries.

 

While the custom-designed DRU drone will make the first deliveries, the original DRU was actually unveiled earlier in the year- a ground based version named Dominoes’ Robotic Unit (DRU). Domino’s will also be looking into launching this driverless delivery unit, which uses maps data and GNSS positioning to navigate obstacles en route to its destination.

As for the RPAS deliveries, it is unclear as yet to how it is spatially defined, where the trials will take place and the topping of the very first pizza.

 

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