A drone-delivery firm owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has been given the green light to take to the skies above Australia.
Wing, as the project is known, is an autonomous delivery drone service which aims to reduce traffic congestion in cities, increase access to goods in rural areas, and help ease CO2 emissions
It has been trialling deliveries for the last 18 months in both the US and Australia, but has now been approved for ongoing commercial delivery operations by Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
According to Wing, during the trial period it had been using its drones to deliver food and drinks, over-the-counter chemist items, and locally made coffee and chocolate.
It made roughly 3,000 deliveries over this period while being inspected by CASA, with the regulators keen to see if the drones posed a risk to the public.
CASA approval may be a big sign to other regulators that the project is trustworthy enough for their own jurisdictions.
However, as it is among the first given to any commercial drone project anywhere in the world, other regulators may continue to exercise caution.
Notably, the licence agreed by CASA falls significantly short of what Wing hopes to achieve with the whole of the project.
The drones being used to deliver goods must be piloted rather than fully automated, and the area they’re being allowed to operate in covers about 100 homes only.
Crucially, CASA did not look at whether the drones would be too noisy to operate within an urban environment.
Google Wing says its drones can fly up to 120km/h powered by an all-electric system with zero carbon emissions.
The project has been spun out of the semi-secret X division, formerly known as Google X and also known as the moonshot factory.
X is where the company’s inventors and entrepreneurs commit to the wilder projects which won’t necessarily pay off, but could provide an x10 rather than 10% improvement on the world’s most difficult problems.
Other X projects include Waymo, Google’s self-driving car division, and Loon, a balloon-based internet network floating through the stratosphere.
(c) Sky News 2019: Google Wing drone deliveries get green light in Australia