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FAA shuts down drone deliveries of Valentine's gifts

By Paul Kruze, KSL.com Contributor  |  Posted Feb 14th, 2014 @ 6:37pm


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DETROIT — The Federal Aviation Administration has clipped the wings of cupid by not allowing drones to deliver Valentine's gifts.

In a move which could be compared to a modern day re-enactment of the story in Greek mythology of Icarus whose wings of feathers and wax were melted by the sun when he got too close, Detroit television station WWJ-TV reports that a Michigan floral delivery company, FlowerDeliveryExpress.com unmanned delivery mini-helicopter was grounded last Saturday by the federal agency.

It had intended to do test flights on Valentine’s Day to deliver as many free rose bouquets to a beta test group to evaluate the viability and capacity of its drone.

The company’s CEO, Wesley Berry, told the TV station that “cupid’s wings have been clipped.” Yet he acknowledged that grounding was done in a respectful way.

“The FAA was extremely professional and polite," Berry said. "I couldn’t have been chastised in a nicer way. When the time is right, we’ll be ready for orders to be delivered, not by an address, but by GPS coordinates."

The FAA referred to the flower delivery drones as “flying food processors” and that standards for training and operations for the use of drones for such commercial uses are still being developed to avoid mishaps. It also said that issues about insurance liability had yet to be investigated in event of a crash. The agency said that commercial drone use is only allowed on an authorized, case-by-case basis.

Berry is no stranger to coming up with new ways to deliver flowers from his legacy family-owned chain of flower shops. He is also developing a fleet of delivery trucks carrying pre-made bouquets for rapid delivery. Following the strong trend of florists using the Internet for order taking, Berry said 98 percent of his sales are done though their website.

Amazon.com President and CEO, Jeff Bezos, recently confirmed media reports that it also is investigating future delivery of its wares by drone.

In June, Dominos Pizza announced that it is eyeing pizza delivery via delivery drones. This has led to some joking wondering if its main competitor, Papa Johns, may be considering pizza delivery dropped to hungry customers via satellites.

The city of Dubai, however, may beat these two megacorporations to the drone delivery by a punch. Officials in Dubai said the city is experimenting with drones to deliver government documents to citizens. The United Arab Emirates city said this week that it intends to launch the first phase of a program which it hopes will lead to widespread government use of unmanned aircraft for the delivery of government citizen documents by 2015.

Paul Kruze is a San Diego-based professional multiple award-winning multimedia journalist who has covered politics, multicultural, and technology stories. He is also a professional musician. E-mail: paul@paulkruzelive.com

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