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Google Overtakes Amazon in Race to Make Consumer Drone Deliveries a Reality

BY Isabella Lee
10 April 2019

Wing, a startup owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has been approved to launch one of the world’s first drone delivery services. The launch follows an extensive trial period, during which Wing made 3,000 air deliveries.

The company announced the official launch of their first air delivery service in a blog post on Monday, April 8. The drone delivery service will be available to a select group of homes in Canberra, Australia.

Wing Drone Delivery

Image Source: Wing

Wing is the Only Approved Drone Delivery Program in Australia

To make the service possible, Wing had to obtain approval from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). CASA confirmed their approval to allow Wing to operate ongoing delivery drone operations in North Canberra under certain conditions:

  • Wing’s delivery drones can only fly Monday to Saturday from 7am to 8pm and on Sunday and public holidays from 8am to 8pm.
  • The drones cannot fly over main arterial roads but are permitted to fly over streets and homes.
  • Wing drones must maintain a 2-meter (6.5 feet) distance from people when making deliveries.
  • Customers must be instructed not to interact with the drone and wait for the package to be released to the ground before retrieving it.

The delivery service will be restricted to approximately 100 designated homes in the suburbs of Crace, Palmerston, and Franklin before gradually expanding to more customers.

CASA allows approved entities to operate delivery drones to transport small ‘just-in-time’ supplies, such as food and medicines to someone within about 10 kilometers of the base station. Wing is the first to gain approval and has established its ongoing delivery facility in Mitchell, a suburb of Canberra. CASA has also granted Wing an exemption from the drone law in Australia that prevents operators from flying drones within 30 meters of people.

To ensure that the drones are safe to fly near and over people, Wing is required to meet international standards of safety and all operations can only be performed with CASA’s approval. Machine learning algorithms help Wing drones find a safe and convenient location for delivery amongst obstacles like trees, buildings, and power lines. To ensure safety, on-board systems conduct safety checks on the drones in real time. In the unlikely event that a drone is forced to make an emergency landing, Wing has an emergency response plan which will dispatch one of their own crew vehicles to the site immediately.

Wing Drones Deliver Coffee, Ice Cream, Medicine

If you’re a Canberra resident and don’t have time to stop for coffee on your way to work, Wing has your back. The company has partnered with local Canberra businesses to deliver a range of goods to peoples’ homes in minutes. Some of the goods you can request for delivery include coffee, ice cream, and medicine.

Wing’s current partners include Kickstart Expresso, Capital Chemist, Pure Gelato, Jasper + Myrtle, Bakers Delight, Guzman Y Gomez, and Drummond Golf. Wing plans to partner with more businesses in the area and encourages any local merchants who are interested in to get in touch with them on their website.

The deliveries are already taking place at a high rate, with 30-50 flights occurring per day. Customers are able to place orders through Wing’s delivery app. In the video below, a customer shares her experience having items delivered to her home using the app:

Wing Bonython trial participant shares her experiences

Google One Step Ahead of Amazon in Drone Delivery Race

The race to become the first fully operational drone delivery service is progressing faster for some companies than others. Much of it has to do with safety concerns, hardware shortcomings, and restrictive regulations.

Many have critiqued Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos for not delivering on his promise to make drone deliveries a reality by 2018. In 2013, Bezos appeared on 60 Minutes and said that the company would be able to deliver items weighing up to five pounds within a 10-mile radius of an Amazon warehouse by 2018. Amazon has filed multiple patents for its system and begun test flights but has yet to make drone-delivered goods available to the public.

In comparison, Google’s Project Wing is a step ahead of Amazon, completing their testing phase and rolling out their publicly available drone delivery service in Canberra this week. However, the project hasn’t been without struggle. During their trials, Wing received complaints about noise caused by the drones and a local group was formed, Bonython Against Drones, to make the community’s concerns heard.

In response to the complaints, Wing is developing new, quieter and lower-pitched propellers for their drone. They’ve also slowed down their drones to reduce the sound they make in flight. As Wing pursues its hopes to expand the service, they’ll need to continue forming strong relationships with the local community to maintain their support.

Let us know what you think about Wing’s drone delivery program in this thread on our community forum.

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