Last November, reports emerged that Alphabet’s drone delivery project was paused due to financial tightening. Project Wing has now reemerged after taking part in FAA and NASA testing to demonstrate its air traffic control system.

The Project Wing team showed off its UAS Air Traffic Management (UTM) platform for simultaneously controlling the complex flight paths of multiple drones.

Hosted at Virginia Tech, the site of previous Chipotle trials, three Wing aircraft interacted with two Intel drones and a DJI Inspire. The Project Wing drones were picking up and delivering packages, while the other aircraft were conducting search and rescue missions.

The UTM platform was able to “automatically manage the flight paths of all these different types of UAS, planning new, clear routes for each aircraft if and when conflicts arise.” This is in stark contrast to operators having to manually steer away from obstacles.

The team at Project Wing is focusing its system on:

  • Real-time route planning for UAS that are flying in the same area
  • Notifications to alert operators of any unexpected changes in the aircraft or route during flight
  • Airspace notifications that allow operators to avoid FAA no-fly zones and safety-sensitive areas (for example: forest fires). An airspace restriction that we simulated as part of our testing is shown below.

Google Maps, Earth, and Street View are leveraged to create a detailed understanding of the world, while Google Cloud is used to build a control system that can handle the scale while being fast and reliable.

Wing is continuing to refine the UTM platform to navigate more complex environments and support more concurrent flights.

About the Author