- The Alphabet startup Wing has secured approval for one of the world’s first drone delivery services.
- The service is set to officially launch in Canberra, Australia, after securing approval from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority following a successful trial.
- The service will aim to use drones to deliver items including coffee and ice cream to homes in the Canberra area within minutes of their being ordered through an app.
- It means Alphabet has beaten Amazon to the punch after Jeff Bezos failed to deliver on his promise of launching a commercial drone delivery service by 2018.
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A startup owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has just secured approval for one of the world’s first drone delivery services.
Wing, which became its own company under the Alphabet brand last year, plans to launch its first commercial delivery service in Canberra, Australia.
The company confirmed the move in a blog post on Tuesday after it secured approval from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority following a successful trial. A CASA spokesman confirmed to Business Insider that the agency had approved the delivery service and said it was “very likely” to be a world first.
Other firms have claimed to have launched the world’s first commercial drone delivery service. This includes Flytrex, which launched a service in Iceland in 2017 in partnership with AHA, the country’s biggest online retailer.
Wing has been piloting the Canberra project for about 18 months, completing 3,000 deliveries. On its official launch, the service is expected to be available to a confined number of homes in the Canberra area before gradually expanding. CASA said 100 homes would be eligible initially.
Wing is designed to allow users to place orders through an app, with deliveries made by drone within minutes, according to the company. Popular delivery items include fresh food, coffee, ice cream, and medicine. Below is a video of a coffee firm, named Kickstart Expresso, that took advantage of the trial.
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“The feedback we have received during the trials has been valuable, helping us to refine our operations to better meet the needs and expectations of the communities in which we operate,” Wing said in its blog post. “We will continue to engage with the local community and stakeholders as we expand our service.”
The trial concluded without a safety incident, but it was not without drawbacks. Australia’s ABC News reported that some Canberra locals were driven to tears by the noise of the drones. “With the windows closed, even with double glazing, you can hear the drones,” one local said.
The CASA spokesman told Business Insider that the Wing service would be subject to rules meant to guarantee safety. The conditions include:
- Drones will be permitted to fly over streets and homes but not over “main arterial roads.”
- Drones can fly 5 meters (about 16 1/2 feet) above people and 2 meters horizontally from people when making deliveries.
- Flights are not allowed before 7 a.m. between Monday and Saturday or before 8 a.m. on Sunday.
- Those eligible for deliveries will receive a safety briefing about not approaching the drones.
“Wing has already conducted thousands of drone deliveries in Canberra with an approval from CASA,” the CASA spokesman added. “Safety data from these trials was carefully assessed by CASA before approval was given for the operations in North Canberra.”
Wing’s launch in Australia means it has beaten Amazon to the punch. CEO Jeff Bezos said Amazon’s commercial drone-based delivery service would be available to the public in 2018, but despite testing it is not yet ready.
Wing is also targeting Europe. The company has been piloting its devices in Helsinki since December. It says it chose Finland as a testing ground because the Finnish people are “renowned for being early-adopters of new technologies.”