NRV drone delivery update, behind-the-scenes at the ‘nest’

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CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7)— For three weeks now, delivery drones have been buzzing in the Christiansburg skies, getting packages to people’s homes in the community.

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There’s been a lot of social media buzz from the families who have been involved with the trial in the New River Valley. Now that the service has been up and running a few weeks, we decided to check back in with a family that we met on the first day and to learn more about how operations work at Wing’s nest.

“It came by drone right here,” said Susie Sensmeier.

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Sensmeier received the first FedEx delivery on her front lawn Oct. 18 when the drone delivery service officially launched in Christiansburg. She’s still rocking her new vest, something she is proud to say was delivered from the sky to her home.

Sensmeier Is one of the many people included in the delivery trial service area who has been getting orders for three weeks now.

“I’ve used it a couple of times. I get goodies from Sugar Magnolia and we’re working with Walgreens to see if they can send my prescriptions that way,” Sensmeier said.

When she orders her goodies on the company’s smartphone app, they are delivered from the nest, or the headquarters off of Welcome St. in Christiansburg.

“We want this space to be a showcase of our technology for the Christiansburg community,” said Wing spokesman Jacob Demmitt. “We want people to be able to come in and take a look around.”

That’s exactly what we did on Friday. We got to see the charging pads where the drones wait to be dispatched for deliveries. When it’s time, crews inside one of the pods prepare what the customer wants, weigh it, take it out to the drone that is waiting, hook the package on and it speeds off to its destination.

“We’re really in this golden, sweet spot with where we want to be with deliveries,” Demmitt said.

Although they can’t comment on a specific number of deliveries so far in Christiansburg, Demmitt said they plan to start small and continue to grow from there.

When it’s really windy or raining, Wing doesn’t deliver as a safety precaution. Weather has stopped service a few times over the past three weeks, but when it is operational, crews are constantly checking the equipment and keeping an eye on the sky.

“We have certified pilots that are overseeing our operations all of the time,” Demmitt said. “They are watching over to make sure everything is going smoothly, and any point in time they can step in if they need to.”

But as long as the weather continues to cooperate, Sensmeier wants to keep using the service more.

“We’re looking forward to even more things coming,” she said.

Sensmeier said she would really like to have more food be delivered to her home. She said she doesn’t want to have to drive in the winter when the roads are icy to get meals. Sensmeier would also like to have things like ice cream and more items to be shared.

Demmitt said they are continually taking feedback so they can provide more items that people would like to have delivered.
“We want to deliver a really great experience to people that are using drone delivery service, but then to everyone else, we want them to feel part of this trial, so they can come in, they can ask us questions,” Demmitt said. “We’re happy to answer anything and show them what we’re doing.”

Service is operational at the nest from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The plan is to eventually make the space a place for field trips so kids and people throughout the community can learn more about how drone technology works.

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