Around the world, drones have been delivering life-saving drugs and blood to clinics, and contrarily tasty treats like burritos, pizza, and Slurpees to homes or campuses.
Civilian drones have also conducted countless surveys of farms, construction sites, and surveillance around venues with a high security risk.
Now, in a stunt that begs to be spoofed by Mike Judge for his HBO series Silicon Valley, Menlo Ventures portfolio company Flirtey has delivered socks from the sky above the Rosewood Hotel during the firm’s annual limited partner meeting.
The delivery drone was operated with oversight by a Flirtey employee from the luxury hotel’s parking lot. Although Flirtey’s unmanned aerial vehicles can fly autonomously, hotel liability concerns and local regulations would not allow it without a licensed operator’s involvement.
The drones dropped custom swag made by another Menlo Ventures-backed company, Stance, a kind of Cafepress or Zazzle for socks whose competitors include SockClub, Eversox and others.
Menlo Ventures’ Managing Director Mark A. Siegel tells TechCrunch, “The Rosewood demo was a little gimmicky and everyone took it in good humor. However, there was a serious angle to it. We wanted investors to get excited about a new cutting edge area in which we are making some bold bets.”
Menlo invested in Flirtey’s seed round, and has also backed drone detection company DeDrone, which recently helped authorities in Las Vegas to identify and deal with unauthorized drones in the no fly zone at the last presidential debate.
Siegel believes that there are still many interesting drone tech and drone services providers worthy of backing, and able to generate the returns expected from venture investors.
He laments that the U.S. is already lagging in drone delivery. “New Zealand already allows it,” the investor said, “Australia, Japan, Belgium, Netherlands seem to all be ahead of us.”
Regulation is the biggest factor preventing drone-based, aerial logistics from flourishing in the U.S., the investor said:
“We still need some tech [development] on collision avoidance and safety, but those will be solved very soon. The FAA has actually taken a very progressive stance, and has spelled out the path to beyond-line-sight delivery, where da drone operator is just looking at a monitor, and delivery over populated areas, but it’s still unclear when fully autonomous delivery will be allowed.”