Google trials Project Wing in Amazon drone delivery stand-off
Fri 29 Aug 2014
A drone-based delivery system to rival Amazon Prime Air has been revealed by Google X, the secretive development team behind the tech giant’s most ambitious projects.
Named Project Wing, Google hopes to use these drones in disaster relief zones, delivering aid packages and supplies to areas in need.
“Even just a few of these, being able to shuttle nearly continuously could service a very large number of people in an emergency situation,” Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots at Google X, told the BBC.
As well as delivering emergency supplies, Google envisions these “self-flying vehicles” catering to goods buyers in a similar fashion to Amazon drones.
According to Google, the team behind Project Wing, led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology aeronautics professor Nick Roy, has been working on the product for two years.
The aircraft includes four electrically-powered propellers, has a five foot wingspan, and can take off and land without a runway. Weighing just below 19 pounds, its computer sits in the tail section and the power is located towards the front of the drone. Other on-board features include GPS, cameras, radios, as well as a measurement sensor which will help with the planes’ auto-positioning.
Originally planned as a way of delivering emergency defibrillators to heart attack victims, Google faced complications as it would have had to integrate with Accident and Emergency services. However, challenges still remain for Project Wing’s new plans. The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) ruling against commercial drone use which has grounded other projects, has confined testing to Australia – a country with far more “progressive” rules about the use of drones than the US.
The Atlantic reported in an extended feature that the initiative is still in very early stages of development:
“The build quality is fascinating. From afar, it looks shiny and complete, and it’s loaded with custom-built electronics, but up close, it’s clear that the body itself is handmade and hacked together. Fingerprint smudges smear it […] It is a work in progress.”