Government-backed drone delivery company emerges — but for now just in one European country

There’s a new player in the drone delivery space that has an interesting backer: the government. And it could give a new service, Kyte drone deliveries, a leg up.

Norway-based drone logistics company Aviant made two major announcements this month. First, that it had received €1 million in funding from an interesting investor: Innovation Norway, which is the Norwegian government’s arm for investing in innovation and development of Norwegian enterprises and industry. And secondly, that it would be launching a drone delivery service called Kyte — albeit at a very small scale.

Photo courtesy of Aviant

What to know about the (extremely limited) Kyte drone delivery service

Kyte is a drone delivery service focused on bring items including groceries, takeaway food, and non-prescription medicines to residential homes in mostly remote areas, though for now it’s still in beta testing mode.

Among the value propositions of the Kyte drone delivery service is that it can deliver to customers in a radius of over 30 kilometers. That’s more than the 20 kilometer roundtrip distance that Google-sister company Wing says it is capable of doing.

“Since the circle covered by one base is squared by the radius, this translates to a 9-fold increase in area coverage compared with Wing,” an Aviant spokesperson told The Drone Girl. “Kyte provides on-demand delivery within a 30 km radius, allowing for a roundtrip distance of up to 60 km. To our knowledge, this is far beyond competing home delivery services.”

In total, Aviant says its drones, which are VTOL fixed-wing drones, are capable of flying as far as 120 kilometers. Aviant also said it is certified under EU regulations to operate autonomous flights within the union, with no requirements for pilots or spotters along the route.

For now though, Aviant’s Kyte drone delivery service is limited to homes in only Norway — and only a tiny handful of homes in Norway at that. Right now, Kyte only operates out of Aviant’s hub near the city of Trondheim, which is considered the fourth-largest urban area in the country.

And even among people who live in or near Trondheim, Kyte is currently only in beta testing mode, seeking customers who reside in sparsely populated areas outside the city and who also have a garden or courtyard for the deliveries to be made. (You can apply to become a Kyte beta tester through a Google form managed by Aviant).

But if eligible, customers can request delivery through the Kyte app, where they can pick various items to order, including groceries and hot food (meals are sourced from popular restaurants in Trondheim). Upon placing their order, a drone located at a Kyte home base is loaded with the products, shipped off to a customer’s home and returns to the base. at Kyte’s home base before they autonomously deliver the package and return to base.

Photo courtesy of Aviant

How does Kyte compare to other drone delivery companies?

For now though, the Kyte footprint is pretty small. As of mid-June, the company said it had completed about 50 home deliveries to beta testers. 

That’s not to say Aviant is new to completing drone deliveries. Since the company’s inception in 2020, Aviant has delivered 12 commercial contracts in Norway and Sweden. Most of its earlier successes can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, as it was brought in to transport Covid-19 tests and blood samples between district hospitals and central hospitals during the pandemic. Since then, the company has operated over 2,500 autonomous flights, covering more than 35,000 kilometers in total. The company says about 4,000 kilometers of flights have been customer deliveries under Kyte-affiliated tests.

Still, 2,500 flights is small potatoes relative to the broader drone delivery industry. Currently an estimated 2,000+ drone deliveries are made in the world each day, according to Fortune Business Insights.

At present, Zipline is the largest drone delivery company in the world followed by Wing in position two and Matternet in position three. All three companies are based in California.

As of March 2023, Zipline says it had completed more than 500,000 real world deliveries, and it has plans to complete about 1 million deliveries by the end of 2023.

Photo courtesy of Aviant

Aviant founders and funding

The company of Aviant itself was founded by Lars Erik Fagernæs, Herman Øie Kolden, and Bernhard Paus Græsdal at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2020.

Aviant’s main backer is Bring Ventures, which is the venture arm of the Norwegian Postal Service. Bring Venture led the company’s €2.3 million seed round, which occurred in September 2022.

In June 2023, it announced that it had landed an additional €1M of public funding from Innovation Norway. That funding has been directed toward drone delivery projects that would autonomously deliver vital prescription medicines directly from pharmacies to people in remote and suburban areas, particularly where mobility can be challenging due to long distances and factors like bad roads or severe weather.

As far as future plans, Aviant says it plans to open a second base in Norway during 2023, which will enable it to serve potentially tens of thousands of homes via door-to-door deliveries. Eventually, Aviant says it intends to be able to reach not just the majority of Norway’s residents, but other European markets.

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