Homegrown Drone Service Flirtey Moving Overseas

By Rory Betteridge | 02 Sep 2014

Flirtey, world pioneer in drone delivery, is departing from its Sydney roots to continue research and testing in greener pastures overseas.

Sydney based drone fulfilment service Flirtey is moving operations to the US after over 100 successful test flights in Australia.

Touted as the world’s first drone delivery company, Flirtey has cited red tape issues and a small capital investment pool as the major reasons for its move out of Australia. After a year of operation in partnership with Australian university textbook vendor Zookal, Flirtey has granted an equity stake to the University of Reno in Nevada for further research and development, and will also commence operations in New Zealand.

While the flying of commercial drones is all but illegal in the US, Australia and New Zealand both allow companies to use unmanned aerial vehicles for business purposes. But while Australian regulators bog down the practice with lengthly regulatory approval processes, the New Zealand government has innovated in the field with AirShare, a UAV-specific platform through which businesses can list their flight patterns.

“Sydney has a smaller market which means there is less capital available from an investing perspective,” Flirtey founder Matt Sweeney told Business Insider. “Being in the US enhances our ability to access larger pools of investment and find a broader range of engineers to work with us.”

“Australia is exceptionally good an inventing new technology: I mean we invented Wifi, the person with the largest number of US patents is an Australian. But to commercialise it, we need to be in larger markets.”

Reno is one of six areas in the US in which drones can be operated, and Sweeney predicts it may become the “biggest little city in the world” of UAVs, adamant that delivery drones will become as common as the stalwart courier or postie.

“It is going to happen a lot faster than people realise. I would like to see drones starting to become ubiquitous within five years,” Sweeney said.

The same troubles that have affected Flirtey don’t seem to bother Google, who has recently signed off on drone delivery trials in Queensland. Sweeney claims he’s not bothered by heavyweights like Google or Amazon expanding operations into Flirtey’s home turf.

“Because these companies have a lot of resources, we see this as a positive,” says Sweeney. “Google and Amazon will be building the market and we will be first to move into that market. Yes, they are our competitors, but we don’t see that in a negative sense; we see that (as) creating an industry big enough for all of us.”

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