First in Flight: Dayton business partnership completes first-ever drone delivery

·2 min read

Move over Wright brothers. The partnership of Winsupply Inc. and Drone Express made history Friday when they completed the material supplier industry’s first-ever drone delivery.

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The historic flight was a 3-mile trip with material on board from the Winsupply Distribution Center on Byers Road in Miamisburg to the company’s showroom in Centerville.

“For the past 26 years, I’ve always wondered how I could help local owners improve their business,” Winsupply President John McKenzie told News Center 7 on Friday. “Today was an example of how we get contractors time back in their day. Time is the most precious commodity we have. Imagine contractors at a job site not having to leave to go to a supply house. The supply house comes to them. That’s the excitement that drives this.”

The way supply chains work now, a contractor must leave the work site and head to a parts or materials distribution facility. Once there, the contractor has to wait for the cargo and then drive back to the work site. Winsupply, described as one of America’s leading business-to-business suppliers, handles materials for residential and commercial construction -- plumbing and heating, pipes, valves, HVAC and refrigeration and more.

Dayton is the headquarters for Winsupply and Drone Express.

The success of the experiment means Winsupply’s drone delivery will now provide a wide range of products from its distribution center in Miamisburg.

The partnership of Winsupply Inc. and Drone Express successfully executed a first-ever drone delivery on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022
The partnership of Winsupply Inc. and Drone Express successfully executed a first-ever drone delivery on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022

Friday’s experience was about “improving the contractor-supply house experience,” McKenzie said, calling the project an efficiency driver.

“We’re adding a tool to further capture market share or new market share,” he said.

“I see us having a fleet of drones throughout the country that can be launched from sprinter vans in close proximity to job site. . . opening the back door of the van, pull out a platform and launch,” McKenzie said.

Drone Express, a logistics company that focuses on safe, eco-friendly package delivery throughout the country, may be new at 3 years old, but CEO Beth Flippo sees an exciting future with Winsupply. Kroger is another Drone Express partner.

“Someday [drones] will be on perches on rooftops all across the city,” Flippo said. “When you place an order, the drone nearest to it is the one that will pick up and go get it. If a drone is sitting on a perch and needs to recharge, it will get up and move.”

Flippo, an engineer and software developer, said she’s excited for the network of drones and what that will look like in the future.

“I also use the example of like your Tesla is in the parking lot at your office,” she said. “You order something. The drone’s going to speak to your Tesla, pop the trunk, drop the package [in] and fly off. This is why I get so excited about it.”