Google’s top research laboratory is hard at work developing a fleet of drones that will be able to take to the skies to deliver packages to consumers’ front steps. The Mountain View, California-based company is the latest to announce the testing of delivery drones, following the likes of Amazon, UPS and Domino’s Pizza.
The project is being developed at Google X, the company’s clandestine tech research arm, which is also responsible for its self-driving car. Project Wing has been running for two years, but was kept secret until now. Google said a 5-foot-wide single-wing prototype had carried supplies including candy bars, dog treats, cattle vaccines, water and radios to farmers in Queensland, Australia earlier this month.
Standing at 2.5-feet-tall and boasting four propellers that move into different positions for different stages of flight, packages are placed into an opening located in the middle of the wing. The company said that its long-term goal was to develop drones that could be used for disaster relief by delivering items such as medicines and batteries to folks in areas that conventional vehicles cannot reach.
“Even just a few of these, being able to shuttle nearly continuously could service a very large number of people in an emergency situation,” explained Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots – Google X’s name for big-thinking projects.
Google began working on drones in 2011 and said it expected it would “take years to develop a service with multiple vehicles flying multiple deliveries per day,” the Wall Street Journal writes. While the technology may be ready, the legal logistics may not be. The FAA has mostly outlawed the commercial use of drones, reserving the rights to fly these unmanned vehicles to hobbyists and researchers.
Though you may not receive a drone-delivered package this year, that may soon all change. A number of companies, including Amazon, 3D Robotics, Parrot and DJI Innovations, recently came together to devise a UAV coalition in hopes of facilitating development.
“Self-flying vehicles could open up entirely new approaches to moving goods, including options that are cheaper, faster, less wasteful and more environmentally sensitive than what’s possible today,” Google notes.
Google hopes the helicopter-like vehicles will be able to drop-off items generally weighing less than 5 pounds within a 10-mile radius of its warehouses in about 30 minutes, with visions that the drones will fly programmed routes at altitudes of 130 feet to 200 feet with the push of a button.
Expedited, more efficient delivery is just one of many applications UAVs could offer society. In fact, according to ex-Wired editor and 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson, the (AVR-powered) DIY drone community will soon have more than 15,000 drones flying, compared to some 7,000 drones in use worldwide by military forces.
In the future with a global drone fleet, Google anticipates that it will be able to convey goods to consumers on the same day an order was placed. Talk about speedy delivery!