Project Wing: Google’s delivery-by-drone service

Amazon made headlines when the company announced last December that it was working on technology that would allow it to deliver packages by aerial drones. But it turns out Google has been working on a similar project for nearly two years… since long before Amazon Prime Air was announced.

The Atlantic has an in-depth look into Google’s efforts to build a drone delivery system which is code-named Project Wing.

Project Wing isn’t ready for commercial applications yet. But Google has designed a small craft that can take off, fly to a destination, and gently drop off a package before returning to home base. The company’s been testing it in Australia.

We already knew Google had a strong team of robotics experts working on the company’s self-driving car initiative. In hindsight it was probably silly to think that was the only thing they were working on.

Now that Google is revealing Project Wing to the public, the company will join the conversation about drone delivery. It’s not just that companies like Amazon and Google still need to perfect their technology before they can start delivering packages by aerial drops. They also need to convince regulators that the service is safe.

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It’s possible that Google’s flying delivery robots could look different by the time they’re ready for commercial deployment… if they ever are. But if Google has its way, overnight shipping might start looking like the slow way to get things you order online. Google envisions a world where your purchases are delivered in minutes.

Once upon a time Google was a search engine company and little more. Now the company makes the most popular smartphone operating system on the planet, operates one of the most popular email services and does much more. But over the last few years the company’s started making some rather big bets on crazy-sounding ideas that could have an even bigger impact on the world of the future: wearable computers, self-driving vehicles, modular smartphones, internet access from balloons, and nearly instant delivery-by-air.

  • Conception

    In today’s world, there are way too many crazy types who’d use this technology for nefarious purposes, delivering drugs, bombs, weapons, contraband, etc. relatively anonymously. Also, the insurance required to ensure public safety and accountability in the event of causing an accident would most likely be astronomical. It is for these reasons, I do not see this ever being allowed.

    • Ben Garner

      Remote controlled airplanes have been around since before 1940 and people are not putting bombs in them all the time. If you stick the word “drone” in there everybody freaks out because it makes them think of weaponized military drones. Being autonomous doesn’t make them more likely to be used to kill people.

      • Conception

        The technology to do this cheaply via GPS and geolocation wasn’t there since the 1940’s now was it Ben? These aren’t your backyard hobby type UAV’s. And being autonomous DOES make them more likely to kill people. If it can be programmed (waypoint flying) to drop a package of significant weight on a pin point target at significant distance, then it CAN and WILL be used to kill people when bad people get a hold of this technology.

      • Ben Garner

        You could make the same argument against civil aviation and private pilots. Had they limited ownership and operation of aircraft to the military and police, we would be living in a very different world right now.

      • Conception

        What the fuck are you talking about? Go to bed Ben, clearly you’re tired.

      • Guest

        Here is what he is talking about. The only things that are keeping people from using private air-crafts for “nefarious purposes, delivering drugs, bombs, weapons, contraband, etc. relatively anonymously” (registered ownership, satellite tracking, etc) should also be just as effective in preventing people from using these delivery drones for nefarious purposes. By the way, good luck using any device controlled via satellite “anonymously”.
        I hope you are not as mean to your cute little dog as you are to strangers on the internet. You should really try to develop some civility, you come across as a bitter, close-minded jerk.

    • Michael Thompson

      You forgot to mention thinking of the children.
      Honestly everything can be weaponized or misused.

    • Guest

      All Google is going to be trying to get is approval for commercial use. Just give each and every one a unique ID number, they are already communicating via GPS so tracking them would be extremely easy, and you could not only remotely disable them with the push of a button but if anyone did something illegal with one there would be a great big, easily traced, trail leading right back to those who were responsible. Anyone capable of working around these measures will find a way to do these things with consumer technology before too long, if they haven’t already, anyways. Allowing these for civilian use would be a different story, but limiting them to commercial use, I expect will very likely happen sooner rather than later.

  • http://www.thegeniusfiles.com thegeniusfiles

    “Drone” is a militarized word that evokes images of destruction and is an extremely poor choice of branding for a nonlethal civilian technology.