Local florist tests delivery by drone


By Bridget Vis

With about 45,000 flower orders expected in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day this year, Commerce Township-basedFlowerDeliveryExpress.com is testing a new method to deliver those orders in the future.

Call it delivery by drone.

The company completed its first drone delivery test Saturday, CEO Wesley Berry said.

Berry said the test flight was done to research the possibilities and challenges of using drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, as another means of flower delivery.

“We are in the very developmental stage of drone delivery; however, conceptually, I believe it’s a pretty good idea,” he said.

Berry said he began researching the use of drones after hearing news last fall that Amazon was looking into using them as a way to ship packages to customers.

He said drone delivery would have many advantages over the trucks that his company uses for flower deliveries — such as not having to follow roads or get stuck in traffic.

In a video of Saturday’s test delivery, the six-blade drone flying over a “road ends” sign on its flight from its Commerce store to a nearby residence proves just that, he said.

However, Berry said the testing has also shown there are obstacles to drone delivery, including short battery life and the price. He said the company is in the process of assembling a third type of drone, a more robust version from DJI Innovations that retails for around $7,000, in hopes of finding one that can handle the weight of the flower arrangement, which averages about 10 pounds, over a longer deliver distance.

Like a Minnesota-based brewery that recently attempted to deliver beer via drone, FlowerDeliveryExpress.com faces an additional hurdle: approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

As Crain’s reported last year, the FAA is still developing regulations for using drones, for commercial purposes; until then their use is permitted only by universities and public entities for experimentation and require a certificate of authorization.

FlowerDeliveryExpress.com is an online floral delivery operation launched in the mid-1990s by Berry, who also owns Wesley Berry Flowers, a Detroit-based florist that was established in 1946 by his parents. The company has five locations in metro Detroit and delivers flowers across the country, Canada and more than 80 countries through its own delivery fleet, FedEx, UPS and a network of affiliated flower shops.