Amazon has been talking about drone deliveries for years now. It seems to be the one thing that Jeff Bezos truly wants, his Rosebud, if you will. That’s why it must really, really sting that rival company Google looks set to be the first to begin real, commercial drone delivery service. Wing, a drone delivery startup owned by Google parent company Alphabet, got approval from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and will begin deliveries in Canberra, presumably quite soon.
Wing has been testing drone delivery around Canberra since 2014, and has developed a drone delivery system that must comply with the following rules set by CASA:
Drones will be permitted to fly over streets and homes but not over “main arterial roads.”
Drones can fly 5 meters (about 16 1/2 feet) above people and 2 meters horizontally from people when making deliveries.
Flights are not allowed before 7 a.m. between Monday and Saturday or before 8 a.m. on Sunday.
Those eligible for deliveries will receive a safety briefing about not approaching the drones.
The drones do not actually land at the delivery site; rather, they hover above the site and winch down the item, encased in a sort of cardboard pyramid, to the ground, where it is released.
It’s also worth noting that if you order a full meal for a family, due to weight restrictions, it could take multiple drone drops to bring the whole order.
You can see the process in promo videos made by Wing during their testing period:
When official delivery service begins, it will be available to around 100 homes in the Canberra area.
While the trials appear to have gone well and proven the viability of the system, there have been complaints about the noise of the hovering drones, which, I suppose, can get a little banshee-like:
There’s even a whole group of residents from the Bonython test location who have banded together against the drones, and have set up a website outlining some of their issues, which include:
Deliveries to the wrong address
Spilt hot drinks
Drone crash on a non-customers driveway
People being followed in public areas by drones
Drone flying so low that it nearly caused a resident to drive off the road.
I mean, some of these could happen with conventional delivery by car or moped, and I sort of doubt the drones would be following anyone, because, why? The biggest complaint, though, seems to be the noise.
Really, though, the noise is no worse than a couple of howler monkeys engaging in mating rituals, and howler monkeys don’t bring you coffee and ramen noodles.
Wing claims to have developed a quieter drone and even though it’s easy to be cynical about things like this, I have to admit I think it is sort of cool to get something delivered by a flying robot that lowers your lunch down to you on a string.