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Alphabet’s Wing gets approval for drone delivery service in Virginia later this year

Earlier this month, Wing launched a commercial delivery service in Australia. The Alphabet company now has similar approval from the FAA to operate in Virginia and provide deliveries via drone.

In the coming months, Wing will begin delivering small consumer items to Blacksburg and Christiansburg residents in Virginia. These are more rural areas, with drones still avoiding densely populated regions.

The Federal Aviation Administration is treating Wing as a small airline, with this Air Carrier Certification being less restrictive. It allows Wing to charge for deliveries, with the commercial service coming online later this year. More areas will be available afterwards.

However, it’s more onerous to complete in that Wing and the FAA had to work through what rules applied to drone companies. For example, regulations about seat belts obviously do not cover small unmanned vehicles. In an interview with Bloomberg, Wing CEO James Ryan Burgess noted how other companies will benefit from the streamlined process. The company had to create extensive manuals, training routines, and a safety hierarchy to show the FAA.

Like in Australia, Wing will act as just another delivery option for local businesses in those two towns. Once ordered, the Wing drone, which features 12 propellers, will hover seven meters above the ground as it lowers a package attached via drop line. Delivery times from order to arrival are often just several minutes long.

For communities across the country, this presents new opportunities. Goods like medicine or food can now be delivered faster by drone, giving families, shift workers, and other busy consumers more time to do the things that matter. Air delivery also provides greater autonomy to those who need assistance with mobility. Also, our all-electric drones will reduce traffic on our roads and pollution and carbon emissions in our skies.

Alphabet has previously conducted testing in Virginia with Chipotle burritos, while the year-long Australia trial of 3,000 deliveries did not result in any safety incidents.

Multiple redundancies are in place, including “real-time systems that conduct safety checks” on the drones, and licensed safety pilots that oversee operations. On the privacy front, the drones feature a still-image camera pointed at the ground for back-up navigation.

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Avatar for Abner Li Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: