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Valqari Drones have multiple uses in golf. Would I like to devour a steaming fresh cheeseburger dropped from the sky before I tee off on the fifth hole, extra salt and pickles? Why, yes, I would. The concept is simple, the execution isn’t, but it has already been tested at Sun City Country Club in Sun City, Ariz. Golfers ordered drinks and food on an app, a drone delivered it to one of four delivery stations, shaped like chimneys, located at key spots around the course. Once the drone released the package and left, the delivery station was activated, moving the package from the top of the landing station(chimney) to the bottom, where a golfer used an app to access it securely and retrieve the food and drinks. The Sun City test, a collaboration between Valqari and AgEagle Aerial Systems, was a success. There will be more testing to iron out some wrinkles but so far, so good. “I was surprised, I thought some of our older golfers might be more stand-offish,” said Ryan Walsh, CEO and founder of Valqari, an award-winning company featured in The Wall Street Journal and other places that has solved the logistical problems in drone-delivery package retrieval. “We had a big audience, the average age was 60 or 65 and they all loved it.” Of course they did. Guys love gadgets so golf courses that are early adapters to drones may attract customers just because of the novelty of drones. Would I play golf at a course just so I could experience ordering by drone? Absolutely. “Any new technology creates a fascination and it could be a draw to go to a golf course to watch a drone carry a six-pack of beer,” said Sun City Country Club general manager Jamey Lewis. “I see drones as a supplement. We’ve got a beverage cart out there carrying snacks and drinks but it can’t carry hot food. The drones and the stations around the course can fill that gap for us. That’s what I’m excited about, expanding our hot food delivery service

SEPTEMBER 2021

so it could be an addition to our bottom line.” Drones don’t have many downsides The Valqari drones feature blades designed to reduce noise and as a result, are much quieter than the drones you could buy at an electronics store. Lewis picked up drone-flying as a hobby a few years ago so he’s already an expert user. “The drones will be at an elevation that won’t disturb golfers,” he said. “The blades for these are so quiet, they’re hardly noticeable. That was a key factor for me in determining whether drones would be inconveniences or assets. It was a no-brainer - they can be in the air and you’d never know it.” Courses that use drones will incur substantial installation costs, money that projections show should be recouped within a year due to increased business. The drones will not be in the line of fire for golfers. Their flying routes will be high above the course and they drop straight down to the delivery station. Chances are very small that a drone would be hit by a stray shot or have something more serious happen, such as—nooo!--beer spillage. An additional benefit of the drone delivery technology is that it can be used to monitor alcohol consumption, which beverage cart operators can’t do. Tracking alcohol sales to specific customers could help make sure golfers aren’t over-served and safeguard a course from being liable in the case of an inebriated player having a car accident on a postround drive home. The pandemic has changed the way some golfers utilize a course’s facilities. Lewis sees drones as a potential way to reclaim lost business. “Right now, it’s a gamble whether golfers come in to use your restaurant after they play,” Lewis said. “I see this as a guarantee of a way to sell hot food for golfers who won’t have to wait.” Drones can also deliver additional golf balls, golf clubs, sun screen, hats or any merchandise from the golf shop. “We have received interest from all over, including golf courses in the Midwest,” Walsh said. “Every course we’ve talked to has been all for this.” No timetable is set but Walsh said we may see a few courses offer drone service before the end of 2021, an exciting thought. “I’m in the drone business so some of the novelty has probably worn off for me,” Walsh said. “We’ll do a demo, like at Sun City, and when people are blown away by the drone, I think, Oh, I forgot—this is their first time seeing something like this.” Drones, welcome to the future. Flying cars, what’s taking you so long?

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