According to a recently filed FAA exemption document, Google’s research climate and energy group are looking to test firefighting and monitoring drones. Google Research plans to test out the HSE-UAV M8A Pro spraying drone focused on the agriculture industry.
Drones aren’t new, but delivery drones are, like the one created by Google’s Wing Aviation. Wing Aviation is taking drone deliveries head-on in Australia, Finland, and the US and is delivering goods right now by drone. As Wing Aviation and similar companies continue to invest in drones, drone delivery will become the next big thing for the commercial drone world.
Google’s Wing Aviation receives the first FAA approval for a drone delivery service in the US. We already reported on this two weeks ago, saying that it would likely be Wing Aviation that would receive the first approval for a delivery service by drone. Today, the commercial drone operator received important government approval to operate as an airline, which gives it the legal authority to deliver products by drone to real customers. The company plans to start routine deliveries by drone in two rural communities in Virginia within the next few months.
A Federal Aviation Administration official said that the agency expects to award the first license to operate a drone delivery service next month. The spokesperson did not name the company that would be receiving the license but it seems that the only likely candidate is Wing Aviation LCC, a subsidiary from Google’s parent, Alphabet Inc. And, the same company that received approval from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority to start making deliveries by drone in the northern suburbs of Canberra after a safety assessment.
Google parent Alphabet Inc’s Wing will launch drone deliveries in Finland in the Spring of 2019, according to a statement. The company announced that it will start to deliver goods and packages up to 3.3 pounds in a range of 6.2 miles in Helsinki. Last July, Wing recently became an independent company as it was spun out of Alphabet’s X research division. The company is led by James Ryan Burgess and has been actively testing with drone deliveries in Australia, delivering burritos among other things.
During his trip to Washington D.C. last week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai met quietly with military leaders at the Pentagon to smooth over tensions about the company pulling out of a defense contract. The Washington Post reports that Pichai met with a group of civilian and military leaders from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. This is the defense department that oversees Project Maven, an artificial-intelligence drone system.
In March, we learned that Google has been working with the U.S. Military to use machine-learning to analyze drone footage. Since then many Google employees protested and almost 4,000 of them signed a letter requesting the company to stop the so-called “Project Maven” immediately. However, that hasn’t happened and now reportedly “about a dozen” employees have left the search giant.
One of the best examples of drone deliveries must be Zipline’s blood and medical supply delivery system in Rwanda. The San Francisco-based company has successfully used drones to fly “more than 187,500 miles, delivering 7,000 units of blood over 7,500 flights” since they launched their service in Africa. Could medical cargo benefitting from using a drone to deliver supplies open up the skies for more routine drone deliveries?
During last week’s FAA Symposium in Baltimore, Amazon, Boeing, GE, and Google announced that they are ready to start working on the development of a private Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system for drones. Testing in conjunction with NASA is supposed to start in the next three months. The system will enable swarms of drones to fly a couple of hundred feet above the ground using cellular and web applications to avoid collisions and allow for remote tracking.
Google is not only applying machine learning across its products, but also encouraging other developers to adopt it in third-party services and other use cases. It has now emerged that one of the latter examples is for drones from the U.S. government.
It has been a little quiet around Alphabet’s Project Wing, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any progress. Over the last few years, Project Wing has made thousands of test flights and now they are ready to start making deliveries. The test market is Queanbeyan, South Eastern Australia, where two merchants have signed up for Project Wing. Guzman y Gomez, a Mexican food chain, and Chemist Warehouse, a chain of pharmacies. These companies will receive orders from test consumers, who’ve purchased items using the Project Wing app on their smartphones. Project Wing’s drones will then fly out and make the deliveries. The first burrito delivered by drone in Australia is now a fact. Believe it or not, this actually happened before when Google delivered Chipotle Burritos via drones to Virginia Tech college students in Blacksburg.