Google Develops Flying Delivery Drones

Search engine giant Google is developing its own fleet of airborne drones, in a scheme it calls ‘Project Wing’.

The idea is to develop a drone capable of home deliveries, similar to the way in which Amazon is looking to utilise drone technology.

Project Wing

Project Wing is being developed by Google X, the secret labs at the research giant. It recently conducted tests in the Australian outback, and a YouTube video shows Australian farmers ordering dog food, via drone delivery.

The Google drone takes off vertically and boasts a single wing design that allows it to fly at faster aeroplane speeds compared to the more familiar helicopter-like drones. It also seems to feature a retractable winch-like device that lowers the delivered goods to the ground.

The Google drone comes after Amazon revealed in December 2013 that it was working on its own home delivery drone fleet, and would launch an Amazon Prime Air service sometime around 2018. The unmanned Amazon octocopters can carry up to five pounds (2.3 kg) of cargo from the company’s distribution centres to customer homes.

But the future regarding drone technology remains unclear. In June the US aviation regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), warned about the currently ambiguous legal status of commercial drones. It reiterated its position that only hobbyist use of the unmanned devices is currently permitted.

But that is not stopping companies such as Google and Amazon. It is understood that Google’s Project Wing is being headed up by Dave Vos, and aims to have a working home delivery drone within the next couple of years.

Why Google?

Some may question why Google is investing in this technology, which is far outside the scope of its web-based heritage.

But Google has been developing and building a number of alternative real-world solutions for a number of years now, including self-driving cars and even high altitude solar-powered balloons (Project Loon) capable of delivering Internet access to developing countries.

Yet, somewhat ironically, it was Google’s own chairman, Eric Schmidt, who warned back in 2013 that drones operated by civilians could pose new privacy and security risks. Prior to that, in 2010, Google was accused of  experimenting with unmanned aerial vehicles, something it vehemently denied at the time.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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