X trials UAV delivery in rural NSW

By on 24 October, 2017

Project Wing, a UAV delivery prototyping project is running its second Australian live trial in the NSW community of Queanbeyan, a novel initiative that seems to be gaining traction with local participants.

Farmers, makers and artists in Queanbeyan, a rural community on the border of the ACT and NSW, are now receiving Mexican food and pharmaceuticals via flying robot.

Project Wing is engineering an automated system of delivery drones that operate under 500 feet (just over 152 metres), harnessing their Google-powered UAS Air Traffic Management (UTM) platform and prototype delivery drones, fixed wing UAVs with propellers, rotors and a wingspan of under 1.5 metres. Wing is a project of X, the semi-secret R&D subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, and has been responsible for developing Google’s Glass wearable and automated car project, Waymo.

Wing has previously tested delivery drones in Queensland in 2014, then initially tested live deliveries in an open field at Virginia Tech in September 2016. The current Australian trial is now working with commercial service providers and far-flung residents to see how the system works for consumers. Participants in Project Wing’s live drone delivery trials can order from food chain Guzman y Gomez or pharmaceutical vendor Chemist Warehouse, and have products autonomously flown to their property.

One of Wing’s design objectives was for deliveries and pick-ups to be made by people without any specialised knowledge or experience — packages are winched from the ground to a hovering drone, and recipients collect their goods after being on a line.

X’s other current projects Makani, an airborne wind-powered electricity initiative, and Project Loon — an approach to internet service delivery in remote locations via stratospheric balloons.

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