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November 2018

Drone Drops Next Big Thing On The Course?

By Scott Kauffman

Like many courses, Grand Forks Park District is thinking outside the box when it comes to marketing its two properties. But this North Dakota entity is really thinking outside the box to drive more business.
The drone box to be specific.

Indeed, Grand Forks is believed to be the first course owner to deploy drones in a live retail setting. To be sure, non-golf companies are already investing big in developing flying robots to deliver goods in a faster and more affordable manner. Amazon and UPS are just two of the big-name companies doing so.

Now, Grand Forks is putting a new spin on the traditional beverage cart that idles its way through the course trying to find the next customer. The Grand Fork’s drone delivery service launched Sept. 5 at King’s Walk Golf Course, an 18-hole Arnold Palmer-designed course.

After an initial demo day, Israeli drone logistics company Flytrex, through a partnership with King’s Walk and EASE Drones, tested the equipment and service over several days to “work out a few kinks,” according to King’s Walk assistant James Delaurier.

King’s Walk golfers consensus?

“It was different,” the 23-year-old said. “But good for the most part. I really like the idea and concept behind it. It’s something unique that can generate interest.”

How else can one explain the ability to be on the 16th hole and have refreshments delivered and dropped by a drone originating from Eagle’s Crest Bar & Grill. The first order: a burger, fries, candy bar and “whatever else they could fit in the box,” Delaurier added.

“The sky’s the limit when it comes to drone capabilities,” said Flytrex CEO Yariv Bash, whose company receives an undisclosed percentage of each sale and fixed delivery fee from the patron. “From delivering snacks and beverages to golfers, to assisting in search and rescue operations, to performing key inspections, drones are being incorporated into all aspects of life. This is the first of many projects we have planned in the U.S., including an (Federal Aviation Administration) approved pilot in North Carolina, which will take off later this year.

“Golf is a sport with deep-rooted traditions and there’s great interest in using technology to enhance this experience. We are excited to be working with the innovative team at King’s Walk to make this inaugural launch a hole-in-one.”

To order from the new system, golfers had to use the Flytrex Golf app and select food and beverage items they wanted for delivery. After choosing from nearby, pre-approved drop-off sites, golfers then placed their order and got a confirmation notification. The drone arrives at the drop-off point and remains airborne, awaiting confirmation that the customer is in position nearby. Once confirmed, the drone lowers the order by wire to the ground, using Flytrex’s advanced “InAir” wire-drop system to ensure utmost safety.

To ensure compliance with existing legislation, the drones can only operate within line of sight of the pro shop or clubhouse technician and fly over specific routes without people below, a problem for many courses. One other likely kink from the perspective of adult golfers: no adult beverages allowed by the FAA via drone.





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