GRAND FORKS — Golfers at the pristine King’s Walk golf course in Grand Forks will soon have the choice of ordering food and beverages and having it delivered via drone on the golf course.
Flytrex, an Israeli drone logistics company, announced a partnership Wednesday, Sept. 5, with King’s Walk and Ease Drones to begin a four-to-six-week trial of the food delivery system, which is anticipated to debut Saturday, Sept. 15.
How it works is golfers will first download a custom-built Flytrex mobile app designed for users to place an order for food and beverages at the nearby Eagle’s Crest Bar & Grill. The food, which can vary from grilled hamburgers to cold sandwiches, along with any beverages, will then be loaded into the drone where a staff member then presses a button to deploy the cloud-connected drone. The order is then lowered down via a tethered wire and delivered to designated drop-off points on the golf course using geofencing technology.
Bill Palmiscno, executive director of the Grand Forks Park District, says that Flytrex approached the city’s economic development corporation at a board meeting back in July with the idea of launching the food-delivery drone at King’s Walk.
“They came to us and asked if we were interested and we said ‘yeah we’d love to do it,’” Palmiscno said. “But we wanted to make sure that it wasn’t going to bother any other golfers.”
Wes Shover, head of U.S. Operations for Flytrex, says that the partnership with King’s Walk and the city of Grand Forks came about due to the city’s reputation for being a hotbed for Unmanned Aircraft Systems and integration.
In 2017, the Grand Forks Air Force Base announced it was realigning its operations to coincide with the base’s unmanned aircraft mission, making it a major command hub that organizes, trains and equips airmen to perform drone missions. Also, the University of North Dakota, based in Grand Forks, was the first university to offer an undergraduate drone degree.
“The entire city is supportive of drone operations and we saw that nobody had thought of this type of use for drones,” Shover said. “King’s Walk was willing to be the first course to bring the service to its golfers.”
An Arnold Palmer-designed signature links-style course, King’s Walk provided Flytrex with the ideal landscape to roll out its new drone.
Under U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s rule, commercial drones must be flown at or below 400 feet and must be kept with a visual line-of-sight.
Palmiscno says that they are anxious to see how the trial run goes, adding that the addition of the drone to King’s Walk could mean a potential attraction for new members.
“A lot of younger members have said this is really cool,” said Palmiscno. “I think it would be cool for any new golfers.”
Palmiscno says that the drone could also be a cost-saving measure by eliminating one of two beverage carts King’s Walk currently operates. According to Shover, beverage carts today cost upwards of $10,000 per cart, while the cost of the food delivery drone used at King’s Walk retails for $6,000.
If the trial is successful, Palmiscno says he’d like to see the golf course cash in on food and beverage delivery opportunities outside of the golf course. In particular, he says, Ulland Park Softball Complex, located just north of King’s Walk.
Challenges remain with that, however, like how to legally serve alcohol using the drone. Palmiscno says that currently there is no way to properly ID consumers who order drinks with the app delivered by the drone.
Despite initial concerns, Palmiscno says golfers who have already used the food delivery drone say that so far they’ve all enjoyed the experience and that “none of the golfers have had any issues with it.”