Project Wing’s drone delivery system moves forward with testing
In a suburb of Canberra, in Australia’s Capital Territory, Project Wing’s drone delivery system is facing its toughest test yet. The project team wants to find out how well unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) will compete with other modes of home delivery.
That testing has not only moved from the countryside into the suburbs but is gathering real-world data on the value to users is a sign of the maturity of Project Wing’s delivery system. And its drones are not the only ones serving customers, with pilot projects underway in several countries and coming to the U.S.
Amazon continues testing in the countryside in Cambridge, England, but publicly is talking more about its work on the UAS traffic management (UTM) system required to enable drones of all stripes to make safe and efficient use of low-altitude airspace.
Project Wing is also developing UTM and using its system in Australia. In the U.S., it is one of the first five UAS service suppliers, or USS, selected by the FAA to provide automated approval of requests to fly drones in controlled airspace near airports using the Low-Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, viewed as the first piece of UTM.
Part of the Alphabet X advanced research arm of Google’s parent company, Project Wing conducted its first delivery demonstration in Australia in 2014 to a farm in the Queensland Outback. It returned in October 2017 to begin regular drone deliveries to a semirural community outside Canberra.
“From October to March, we were able to expand our operations from line-of-sight to extended-light-of-sight, with a spotter watching the airspace all the way, to true beyond-visual-line-of-sight [BVLOS],” says James Ryan Burgess, project co-lead. “We were flying over people, and all the routes were on demand.”
The trial was conducted with Mexican food chain Guzman y Gomez and pharmacy chain Chemist Warehouse; customers used a smartphone app to order items for delivery.