The Flirtey Eagle delivery drone.
In early March of last year, as COVID-19 cases began to spread across the U.S., Matthew Sweeny published an article on LinkedIn titled: “Drone delivery is critical to pandemic management.”
In a nutshell, Sweeny, founder and CEO of Flirtey, a Reno-based drone startup, posited that “‘no-contact delivery’ of medical test kits, medicine, food and water to homes across America by autonomous Flirtey drone delivery” would be a solution to managing the COVID crisis.
The Reno-based company is making strides toward bringing those solutions to the masses as the pandemic rages on in 2021.
In early February, Flirtey announced that it has successfully conducted multiple deliveries of at-home COVID-19 test kits in Northern Nevada during the initial phase of its test program.
Along the way, Flirtey in November 2020 partnered with healthcare tech company Vault Health, which is at the forefront of supervised COVID-19 testing. Together, the companies launched the delivery of the first FDA-authorized saliva test for COVID-19, according to a Flirtey press release.
The company says using Flirtey drones to deliver COVID-19 test kits reduces exposure risks and increases testing convenience, especially for residents who don’t live near on-site testing locations.
“Drone delivery of the test kits was faster than traditional mail, reducing the shipping process by up to 48 hours, which could lead to quicker results and reduce risk of asymptomatic spread,” Sweeny said in an email to the NNBW.
Flirtey’s Eagle delivery drones autonomously hovered and lowered the COVID-19 test kits — which Vault Health distributes — using its delivery mechanism. Once delivered, residents can access a secure video call with a health professional to supervise their saliva collection, according to Flirtey.
“Our goal at Vault has always been to expand access to COVID-19 testing so everyone can get a test when they need one,” Jason Feldman, founder and CEO of Vault Health, said in the press release. “Flirtey helps expand on our innovations to make our already fast turnaround time, even faster.”
When asked, Flirtey did not provide the specific number of COVID-19 test kits it has successfully delivered by drone. So far, all of the deliveries have taken place in Northern Nevada.
“Flirtey’s goal is to scale to enable more people to get access to COVID-19 test kits nationwide,” Sweeny said.
To that end, Sweeny said that Flirtey is working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration on Type Certification. This, he said, “will enable wide-sale use of our technology for commercial and life-saving applications.”
To date, Flirtey says it has conducted more than 6,000 total flights as a company. In 2015, the company made history when it completed the first ever drone delivery approved by the FAA.