Delivery Drones

Google’s Wing becomes first company to gain FAA approval for the concept

Utility drones for repairs, military and surveillance drones for security reasons, mapping drones….we seem to have every kind of flying robot we want…except for the one that perhaps best defines the 21st century: a convenience drone designed for consumers. Check that box, now, too. Alphabet, Inc.—Google’s parent company—announced its drone division, Wing, gained FAA approval for residential and commercial deliveries April 23, the first of its kind to do so.

“This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy. Safety continues to be our Number One priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine L. Chao.

Air Carrier Certification means that Wing can begin a commercial service delivering goods from local businesses to homes in the United States, it said on a post to Medium Corp.’s blog.

“Wing achieved a significant milestone today, becoming the first drone delivery company to receive Air Carrier Certification from the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This is an important step for the FAA and the drone industry in the United States; the result of years of work to safely integrate drones into the national airspace. We’re grateful for the vision of the Administration, the Department of Transportation, and the FAA for creating the Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (UAS IPP) to advance the drone industry in the US.”—Wing post on Medium page

 

Wing’s electric drones are driven by 14 propellers. They are reported to shoulder more weight than other prototypes due to being “top-mounted”; supposedly capable of carrying up to 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds). They’re meant to deliver a wide range of everyday items, from food and drinks to medicine and emergency supplies.

Wing started testing its delivery drones at Virginia Tech University in fall 2016, and will begin an expansion of its recruitment of potential residential and business customers in that same area—Blacksburg and southwest Virginia—later in 2019, the company stated. But the first official trials in a major market are expected to be in Helsinki, Finland, beginning soon this spring, according to an NPR report.

Statistics on the use of drones exemplify the industry’s rapid growth. At the end of 2018, The Associated Press reported that “110,000 commercial drones are operating in U.S. airspace,” citing government figures that also projected the number would more than quadruple in 2022.

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