Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016 | 12:38 p.m.
RENO, Nev. — Mike Joyer has found a new way to impress his kids: drone-delivered Slurpees.
Joyer was among a dozen 7-Eleven customers selected for deliveries in a Reno neighborhood last month in a partnership between the convenience store chain and the Nevada-based Flirtey's commercial drone service.
The 77 packages Flirtey flew to homes in November was the first full-fledged operation of its kind in a busy, populated area, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported (http://tinyurl.com/zas6uay ).
The pilot project included parents, college students and elderly couples, officials for the Reno-based company said in a statement. The most popular orders included hot food, cold beverages and over-the-counter medicines.
Customers placed orders on an interactive app that notified them when their drone was loaded, when it departed and when it would arrive, Flirtey said. Using GPS, the autonomous drones carried delivery containers to the home, where it hovered in place until delivery.
Joyer was hooked when he ordered pizza and a drink while watching a movie at home as his children napped.
"Ten minutes later my phone buzzed and said my food was outside," Joyer said. That led to "drone parties" for his kids and their friends.
"We would order four Slurpees at a time and the kids thought the drone was the coolest thing ever," Joyer said.
The drone deliveries come after a recent test by NASA and the University of Nevada, Reno in October for managing drone traffic in a commercial space. Nevada is one of a few drone test sites designated by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Flirtey conducted the first FAA-approved, non-urban drone deliveries to a rural health care clinic in Virginia in July 2015. It flew what it said was the first fully autonomous urban drone delivery in the United States in March on a half-mile route to a vacant residence in the Hawthorne area, located about 150 miles southeast of Reno.
Flirtey CEO Matthew Sweeny said his company and 7-Eleven plan to expand their joint delivery and operations in 2017. He said their completion of a full month of routine commercial deliveries in Reno is key to their aim to "make delivery instant."
"This is a giant leap toward a future where everyone can experience the convenience of Flirtey's instant store-to-door drone delivery," he said.