Google is set to become the first tech giant to offer drone delivery services. A startup, owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, has secured approval to start drone deliveries in Australia. Wing, as the company is called, will begin its first batch of deliveries in Canberra. A blog post by Google confirmed that the company had secured permission from the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority after a period of successful trials. A spokesman from the Australian agency also confirmed that the approval had been granted noting that it’s very likely that this will be the first drone delivery service in the world.
But there are other companies too that have claimed they launched drone delivery services even before Google. For example, Flytrex, another startup in this niche, started to offer commercial drone delivery services in Iceland in 2017. The startup partnered with AHA, the largest e-commerce platform in the country.
Wing piloted the Canberra project for 18 months. During this period, it was able to complete over 3,000 deliveries. Nonetheless, after its launch, the service will be limited to only a part of the city. The plan is to expand it gradually until eventually the drones are able to serve a bigger part. According to Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), the initial phase of the project will only target 100 homes. Wing lets users place orders online using an app. Once the order is placed, the drones deliver within minutes. So far some of the most popular deliveries include fresh food, ice cream, medicine, and coffee.
Wing also said in a blog that the feedback they have received so far from the tests has been invaluable. The company added that it intends to use the feedback in refining its services further over the coming few months. The startup added that it is engaging the local community and other stakeholders as it expands its service in Canberra. Despite the successful trials, there were a few challenges reported. For instance, local Australian news network ABC at one time said that locals were “driven to tears” by the annoying noises produced by the drones.
Nonetheless, Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) made it clear that Wing will need to fulfill certain safety conditions. For instance, drones will not be allowed to fly over “main arterial roads.” In addition to this, the drones must fly at least five meters above people as they make their deliveries. But Wing has already conducted thousands of deliveries in the trial phase and it seems local authorities are fine with the safety record. In fact, there was no single safety incident reported during the trial phase.
The approval means that Google has beaten Amazon to the punch when it comes to drone deliveries. Amazon is also working on such a service. The e-commerce giant had hoped to have it available in 2018 but it was delayed. Wing now wants to expand its operations not just in Australia but in Europe too. Since December last year, the company has been conducting tests in Helsinki, Finland.