The biggest shipping companies in the world — FedEx, DHL, even the US Postal Service — should start worrying about Alphabet, Google’s newly-minted parent company.
“Project Wing” was in stealth mode at Google X (now just called “X,” which works directly under Alphabet) for two years before its public unveiling last August. When it debuted, Google showed off a cute five-foot single-wing drone that could hover thousands of feet in the air and drop packages with a winch that would detach from the package once it hit the ground.
You might be wondering why this is a big deal. According to Project Wing chief Dave Vos, who spoke to Bloomberg last month, delivery drones will be able to transport packages much faster than traditional methods — which are limited by geography and the number of aircrafts that can be in the air at one time, for example — while also cutting down on pollution by taking traffic off the streets.
While Google X chief Astro Teller says he plans to update the status of Project Wing later this year, we already know Google’s delivery drone has undergone several changes since its debut.
In March, Teller said he and the Project Wing team had scrapped the initial drone design for Project Wing because it was too difficult to control. “It didn’t hover well in high winds and its cargo shifted too much when the wing moved up and down,” he told The Wall Street Journal.
The Project Wing team has also been working closely with over a dozen other companies, including Amazon and Verizon, which have signed agreements with NASA to design the first air traffic system for low-flying drones. Right now the FAA doesn’t allow this kind of thing, that’s why these organisations are working together to create a traffic system that can accommodate any and all unmanned aerial vehicles and also prevent mid-air collisions.
“We think the airspace side of this picture is really not a place where any one entity or any one organisation can think of taking charge,” Vos told Bloomberg. “The idea being that it’s not ‘Google is going to go out and build a solution and everyone else has to subscribe to it.’ The idea really is anyone should be free to build a solution.”
We expect to learn more about Project Wing later this year. For now, Alphabet-owned Google X is testing its drones in Queensland, Australia.
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