The last time we reported on Project Wing, a drone delivery division run by Google’s parent company Alphabet, it had begun testing its air traffic management system and delivery drones in southeast Australia. Months later, 150 locals have used the unmanned aerial vehicles to have their Mexican food and items from Chemist Warehouse delivered aerially. This Australian testbed, it seems, has been running smoothly. So smoothly, in fact, that Project Wing is eager to expand its operations to nearby suburbs, and begin delivering payloads to customers’ backyards. If you’re thinking of this proliferation as a significant marker toward eventual drone deliveries in city environments, you’re probably on the same page as Project Wing.
According to The Canberra Times, the testbed expansion will allow residents of Tuggeranong to experience this modern phenomenon first-hand. Thus far, only those with large backyards in rural Royalla have had the privilege of getting their burritos delivered from the heavens but Project Wing is holding an info-session (and barbeque) in Bonython Saturday where it’ll field questions and inform potential customers of its services.
The process itself is fairly simple, the UAV flies into the customer’s airspace, above a designated delivery zone, and then lowers the payload with the help of winches, before whirring back to its hub. These UAVs are reportedly equipped with two horizontal engines, 12 vertical engines, and are capable of traversing more than 6 miles (10 kilometers). Obviously, drones don’t rely on our grounded infrastructure and are able to bypass any indirect routes by simply getting from point A to point B as directly as possible. Royalla residents have been greatly appreciative of this time-effective aerial approach, as a trip to the closest stores requires 40 minutes of road-time.
Luke Barrington, the product manager at Project Wing, said that setting up this testbed has allowed residents to familiarize themselves with the app, the process in general, and assuage any fears or concerns regarding safety or practicality. While this has seemingly gone swimmingly, he’s eager to expand. “We’ve been able to deliver to these big open paddocks, which has taught us a tonne. But now if we want to make drone delivery accessible for everyone we have to navigate smaller backyards and tighter situations,” he said.
According to Barrington, progress regarding the standardization of this process is being made every single day. Mainly, the local reactions from those living amidst this testbed provide a wealth of information for the delivery project. “That’s what we’re really here to learn, is to get feedback from the community about how they see drones interacting with their daily lives,” Barrington explained. While we’re still pretty far away from having our burritos delivered aerially in New York City, it’s heartening to see progress being made in this department, regardless of where on the planet that may be. If you’re feeling hungry and live in Royalla, your impulse might already be to open the Project Wing app to order food. If that isn't progress in drone delivery, we don’t know what is.