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Denver’s Drone Express could start making drone deliveries soon

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Zipping around the city by personal jet pack is still just a dream, but a drone humming along to drop off groceries, prescriptions or a late-night pizza at your door could become a reality in the Denver area as soon as late spring.

Drone Express, which moved its headquarters to Denver in November, is one of a handful of companies to earn a spot in the Federal Aviation Administration program focused on incorporating drones into the national airspace and authorizing their use for commercial services.

Within the next few months, Drone Express expects to receive the FAA authorization needed to deliver airborne cargo by unmanned aircraft for compensation. The company will be able to fly the drones beyond operators’ direct visual line of sight, meaning it won’t have to station people on the ground to monitor the aircraft.

“There are only five companies that will have the certification over the next five years and we’re one of them,” said Brandon Mabey, the company’s chief strategy officer.

The other four are Amazon, Google, Zipline and Causey Aviation Unmanned in partnership with Flytrex. Mabey acknowledged that Drone Express is in the company of some major high flyers.

“The next person to us is worth $4 billion. We’re at $60 million,” Mabey said.

However, the company is preparing for a round of fundraising that it expects to garner about $250 million, he added.

Drone Express has concentrated on expanding thoughtfully while improving its technology, Mabey said. The company has a total of 27 employees, including six in Denver. Others are in Dayton, Ohio, where Drone Express was founded in 2021.

The company also has offices in Madrid and in Saudi Arabia, where it will start making deliveries by drones later this year to Sindalah Island off the country’s northwestern shore. Drone Express teamed up with the Kroger grocery store chain to start making deliveries in the Dayton area in 2021 and with Papa John’s International in Atlanta.

While Drone Express waits for what’s called Part 135 certification from the FAA, which allows deployment of drones without operators having to directly keep their eyes on them, the company is operating with some limits under another federal regulation.

The company has made a few short-range deliveries in the Denver area, but anticipates expanding operations by summer.

The company’s current focus is Winston-Salem, N.C., where the FAA has approved radar corridors so autonomous aircraft can fly beyond a pilot’s visual line of sight. Mabey said Drone Express will deliver goods for Kroger and provide services for stores in an area that is within range of tens of thousands of houses.

Drone Express CEO Beth Flippo said the company is a member of the nonprofit organization AeroX. The group is working with the FAA in the Winston-Salem area to develop guidelines and a model for integrating drones into the national airspace.

“We’re hoping that we can extend into Denver and bring a lot of the stuff that we’ve learned from North Carolina to Colorado,” Flippo said. “We’re big believers in doing everything that we have to do to make sure this is safe.”

Denver will be a primary market for Drone Express, but the company will maintain its presence in Ohio. Flippo, originally from New York, said they started the business in the Dayton area because of its partnership with Kroger, based in Cincinnati.

But as she spent time with the employees who were in Denver, Flippo “it was just undeniable that it is a really growing place.”

“There are more people moving there from California. There’s a big tech movement, a big ecosystem of people who want to adapt new technology to everyday life,” Flippo said.

The Denver area is also a major hub for airline traffic and is home to several aviation-related companies, including manufacturers, Mabey said. There is a lot of talent to pull from, he added.

The Dayton office will continue to focus on research and development, customer support and serve as a hub for regional outreach, the company said in a statement.

Although Drone Express is just a few years old, the technology it uses has been in the works for a few decades. The company’s predecessor was Telegrid, which developed secure communications equipment, both wired and wireless, for the military.

Telegrid, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Drone Express, manufactures the autonomous aircraft. Mabey’s team developed the software for the app that customers who pay a monthly subscription will use to place orders. The company partnered with Microsoft to launch a version of the drone that uses artificial intelligence for in-flight navigation systems.

The drones can connect to cellular networks, but the technology allows the aircraft to communicate with each other without tapping into those networks.

“It’s really a communications network that allows drones to talk to each other in real time and form an ad hoc network so they can share information,” Flippo said. “One drone can say ‘I saw something over there. Don’t go over there.’ ”

The drones, which have tail numbers like larger commercial aircraft, have eight blades and are about 3 feet wide. One version of the drone weighs 17.5 pounds. The craft can carry up to 10 pounds, but Mabey said the company limits the load to 8 pounds to be on the safe side.

What about bigger orders? “If you order 20 pounds of product, I can send it in three drones that touch down at the same time or within a few minutes” of each other Mabey said.



Zipping around the city by personal jet pack is still just a dream, but a drone humming along to drop off groceries, prescriptions or a late-night pizza at your door could become a reality in the Denver area as soon as late spring.

Drone Express, which moved its headquarters to Denver in November, is one of a handful of companies to earn a spot in the Federal Aviation Administration program focused on incorporating drones into the national airspace and authorizing their use for commercial services.

Within the next few months, Drone Express expects to receive the FAA authorization needed to deliver airborne cargo by unmanned aircraft for compensation. The company will be able to fly the drones beyond operators’ direct visual line of sight, meaning it won’t have to station people on the ground to monitor the aircraft.

“There are only five companies that will have the certification over the next five years and we’re one of them,” said Brandon Mabey, the company’s chief strategy officer.

The other four are Amazon, Google, Zipline and Causey Aviation Unmanned in partnership with Flytrex. Mabey acknowledged that Drone Express is in the company of some major high flyers.

“The next person to us is worth $4 billion. We’re at $60 million,” Mabey said.

However, the company is preparing for a round of fundraising that it expects to garner about $250 million, he added.

Drone Express has concentrated on expanding thoughtfully while improving its technology, Mabey said. The company has a total of 27 employees, including six in Denver. Others are in Dayton, Ohio, where Drone Express was founded in 2021.

The company also has offices in Madrid and in Saudi Arabia, where it will start making deliveries by drones later this year to Sindalah Island off the country’s northwestern shore. Drone Express teamed up with the Kroger grocery store chain to start making deliveries in the Dayton area in 2021 and with Papa John’s International in Atlanta.

While Drone Express waits for what’s called Part 135 certification from the FAA, which allows deployment of drones without operators having to directly keep their eyes on them, the company is operating with some limits under another federal regulation.

The company has made a few short-range deliveries in the Denver area, but anticipates expanding operations by summer.

The company’s current focus is Winston-Salem, N.C., where the FAA has approved radar corridors so autonomous aircraft can fly beyond a pilot’s visual line of sight. Mabey said Drone Express will deliver goods for Kroger and provide services for stores in an area that is within range of tens of thousands of houses.

Drone Express CEO Beth Flippo said the company is a member of the nonprofit organization AeroX. The group is working with the FAA in the Winston-Salem area to develop guidelines and a model for integrating drones into the national airspace.

“We’re hoping that we can extend into Denver and bring a lot of the stuff that we’ve learned from North Carolina to Colorado,” Flippo said. “We’re big believers in doing everything that we have to do to make sure this is safe.”

Denver will be a primary market for Drone Express, but the company will maintain its presence in Ohio. Flippo, originally from New York, said they started the business in the Dayton area because of its partnership with Kroger, based in Cincinnati.

But as she spent time with the employees who were in Denver, Flippo “it was just undeniable that it is a really growing place.”

“There are more people moving there from California. There’s a big tech movement, a big ecosystem of people who want to adapt new technology to everyday life,” Flippo said.

The Denver area is also a major hub for airline traffic and is home to several aviation-related companies, including manufacturers, Mabey said. There is a lot of talent to pull from, he added.

The Dayton office will continue to focus on research and development, customer support and serve as a hub for regional outreach, the company said in a statement.

Although Drone Express is just a few years old, the technology it uses has been in the works for a few decades. The company’s predecessor was Telegrid, which developed secure communications equipment, both wired and wireless, for the military.

Telegrid, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Drone Express, manufactures the autonomous aircraft. Mabey’s team developed the software for the app that customers who pay a monthly subscription will use to place orders. The company partnered with Microsoft to launch a version of the drone that uses artificial intelligence for in-flight navigation systems.

The drones can connect to cellular networks, but the technology allows the aircraft to communicate with each other without tapping into those networks.

“It’s really a communications network that allows drones to talk to each other in real time and form an ad hoc network so they can share information,” Flippo said. “One drone can say ‘I saw something over there. Don’t go over there.’ ”

The drones, which have tail numbers like larger commercial aircraft, have eight blades and are about 3 feet wide. One version of the drone weighs 17.5 pounds. The craft can carry up to 10 pounds, but Mabey said the company limits the load to 8 pounds to be on the safe side.

What about bigger orders? “If you order 20 pounds of product, I can send it in three drones that touch down at the same time or within a few minutes” of each other Mabey said.

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