Earlier this year, Amazon unveiled its plans for using drones to deliver products to customers, and now Google has revealed that it is working on something similar. According to two separate reports from The Atlantic and BBC, the secretive Google X team has been hard at work on Project Wing, a drone-based delivery system, for more than two years.
The idea of Google using drones to deliver goods is something that 9to5Google has reported on for some time now, including as far back as October of 2012, and again a few months later. Google said the following in a statement regarding Project Wing:
Project Wing is a Google[x] project that is developing a delivery system that uses self-flying vehicles. As part of our research, we built a vehicle and traveled to Queensland, Australia for some test flights. There, we successfully delivered a first aid kit, candy bars, dog treats, and water to a couple of Australian farmers.
We’re only just beginning to develop the technology to make a safe delivery system possible, but we think that there’s tremendous potential to transport goods more quickly, safely and efficiently.
Google says that it’s number one focus with Project Wing is not necessarily shipping goods to your average customer, but is rather using the drones in times of disaster relief. In the case of natural disasters that make cities nearly inaccessible, Google’s drones could deliver necessary supplies to residents.
“When you have a tool like this you can really allow the operators of those emergency services to add an entirely new dimension to the set of tools and solutions that they can think of,” said Dave Voss, incoming leader of Project Wing.
Google, of course, says that in addition to disaster relief, these “self-flying vehicles” will also be capable of delivering goods to average consumers. The company has “dozens” of people working on the project right now, with many more planning to join soon. The drone itself weighs just 19 pounds and can take off and land without any sort of runway. The drones can deliver anything that weighs up to 22 pounds. Onboard the drone is GPS, radios, cameras, and a sensor made of accelerometers and gyroscopes. The vehicles are pre-programmed with a destination, but are then left to fly themselves automatically.
Google brought in Nick Roy from MIT to help get Project Wing off the ground. Google and Roy’s initial goal with Project Wing was to deliver defibrillators to people having a heart attack, but that idea was scrapped because it would have to be heavily integrated into emergency management and 911 systems. Google has been doing most of its Project Wing testing in Australia because it has “more progressive” laws when it comes to using drones.