Smart Drones Take Flight in the Birthplace of Aviation

From wireless radios to AI, Drone Express is creating cutting-edge delivery technology

A drone carries a package from Kroger in the air

For many, drones are the future of delivery, tourism, fast food, and more, but investors and potential partners aren’t just looking for simple flying skills. That’s where Drone Express comes in, with smart aircraft powered by AI, this FAA-certified startup makes its home in Dayton and leverages powerful partnerships to drive innovation across the industry.

“We’re a spinoff of TELEGRID, where we developed wireless radios that could be used on aircraft. Suddenly, every drone manufacturer was contacting us, so we decided to build our own aircraft and get into package delivery,” Founder and CEO Beth Flippo said. “Soon, we will be one of four companies certified to deliver airborne cargo in the United States.”

Drone Express doesn’t operate your average drone. It is fully networked with its own IP addresses, meaning the drones can talk to each other and other objects in the ground.

“It’s funny because drones usually aren’t thought of as being part of the Internet of Things, but we pack a lot of technology on our drones, including military-grade encryption,” Flippo said. “We really want to push the boundaries of what drones are capable of.”

One of the ways that Drone Express is making waves in the industry is through its partnerships, which include Kroger, Papa Johns, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and Microsoft.

“With Microsoft, we’ve developed proprietary AI technology that recognizes different parts of a house, including the driveway, the door, and the backyard, in order to decide the best place to deliver a package,” she said. “Our partnerships give us the opportunity to build a responsive, creative product.”

An accomplished embedded engineer, Flippo is no stranger to the ups and downs of the startup world, and she said that living in the Dayton area has been a huge part of her success.

“There’s no place like Dayton,” she said. “This is where flight was created, and that mentality is pervasive in the culture. Dayton people look up – and part of that is a sense of encouragement I don’t think I would have found anywhere else.”

Joining The Entrepreneurs’ Center, a partner of Ohio Third Frontier, helped Flippo lean in more to the business side of Drone Express.

“Our entrepreneur in residence at The Entrepreneurs’ Center helped us learn about the local landscape,” she said. “Because funding is set aside for regional businesses, it builds a sustainable ecosystem for entrepreneurs here.”

Like the Wright brothers, Drone Express isn’t just staying in one place; its eyes are turned to international partnerships and other ways to broaden the ways its aircraft technology can be used.

“We’re expanding our scope to see what else is out there, whether it’s pizza delivery, construction equipment, tourism, or even deliveries in the medical field,” Flippo said. “All of this is only capable with drones, and we’re excited to be on the forefront of that innovation.”

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