Iceland is perhaps my favorite country on earth (aside from New Zealand, of course.) Anyone who has never been there should totally go, it’s awesome. But alongside incredible scenery and amazing people, Iceland is also a surprising hub of innovation – despite being a country with a tiny population, the huge impact the Global Financial Crisis had on Iceland has unleashed a wave of interesting new companies. It has also been an early adopter of interesting new technologies from outside the country – being a small country, it is easy to get new approaches through regulatory approvals and hence Iceland is seen as a good test bed for new tech.

A good example comes today from Flytrex. Flytrex is a vendor that offers a drone delivery platform. Flytrex partners with e-commerce vendors to enable them to integrate same-day autonomous drone delivery into their offerings. The Flytrex team has half a century’s worth of aerospace and defense experience – and since drones and defense in Israel go together to create carnage, it is nice to see that technology implemented into more benign use cases.

AHA – Not just an 80’s band

And so to this announcement wherein Flytrex is partnering with Aha, Iceland’s largest online marketplace, to launch an on-demand urban drone delivery service. Aha provides a turn-key marketplace to restaurants, retail and grocery stores handling the full e-commerce process including catalog loading, sales, marketing, and delivery.  Aha basically bundles up a bunch of different technologies (both software and hardware) and offers it as a white label package for shopping centers – in Iceland and beyond.The marketplace has been in operation and development for 6 years on Aha.is, now the leading e-commerce marketplace in Iceland for hot food, groceries, and products from over 100 companies.

The service, which will be available in Iceland’s largest (and, to be honest, only real) city, Reykjavik is aiming to reduce delivery times, energy consumption and streamline delivery logistics. Aha’s CEO, Maron Kristófersson, is bullish about this opportunity:

We have seen a tremendous increase in our online delivery orders in recent months, especially our retailers’ products, and we expect to see this growth continue in the coming months as consumers experience the much faster delivery times Flytrex drone delivery offers. We’ve been monitoring online logistic technologies around the globe, and Flytrex soared above all the others with its swift, smart, safe, and commercially viable solution. The partnership with Flytrex will further propel AHA’s turn-key software, sales and business processes for operating a multi-merchant e-commerce marketplace. We hope to Partner with Flytrex not only in Iceland, but also as part of our marketplace solution overseas.

But does anyone really care about something happening in Iceland?

I love Iceland, but the reality is that with a population under half a million, anything that happens in Iceland isn’t exactly going to move the needle globally. But look at this more deeply and you’ll see some interesting things. The world of retail is, of course, in mortal fear of Amazon’s future initiatives. The Seattle mega-company has a habit of disrupting entire industries, and retail is squarely in its sights. As such, retailers globally are thinking about how they can reduce the impacts of Amazon’s growth, or at least find new ways to compete. One of the angles they’re looking at is in the speed and efficiency of their dispatch processes – which is where this story comes in. The Iceland roll out is a great testing ground for the technology, and we can imagine that, if successful, Flytrex will see growth elsewhere as well.

If you’re a mid-sized retailer, you could buy a bunch of drones and build some technology to enable drone delivery. Alternatively, and assuming this Icelandic experiment goes well, you could just buy the entire kit and caboodle from Flytrex.

But what about regulations?

This is why a country like Iceland is perfect for this sort of proof of concept. As a tiny country, it’s easy enough to connect with the various people who set the rules. Flytrex and Aha had quick and efficient conversations with the Icelandic Transport Authority and gained approval for the system – initially to deliver food and consumer products from shops and restaurants on one side of Reykjavík to a designated point across the city. After a trial period, however, Flytrex and AHA intend to deliver packages along multiple routes and directly to consumers’ backyards’

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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