Less than a year after Amazon announced that it was working on a drone delivery service, Google has revealed that it has been testing a similar service.
The tech giant recently completed the first phase of Project Wing, through which Google hopes to find a way to send packages via drones, according to a report in The Atlantic by Alexis Madrigal that Google later made official by posting the below video of its Project Wing tests in Australia, where policies governing “remotely piloted aircrafts” are more permissive than those in the U.S.
Project Wing has been in development since 2011 at Google’s research lab after execs, thinking about how faster delivery services changed the world, wondered if being able to get something in just a couple of minutes would do the same, The Atlantic explains. Initially they were focusing on delivering defibrillators to people who had heart attacks but ultimately realized that there were logistical and practical barriers to being able to provide those as quickly as they wanted, so they focused on the near-instantaneous delivery of stuff.
The secret program has been headed up by MIT roboticist Nick Roy, who took a two-year sabbatical to lead it, The Atlantic reports. Now Dave Vos, who has 20 years’ experience with automated flying machines and ran drone software company Athena Technologies, will transform Project Wing into a service that real people might use to deliver things they want quickly via small “self-flying vehicles,” as Google calls them.
The current design for the drone is a tail that serves as a stand, a plastic body and two wings made out of foam board. The plane-helicopter hybrid has four rotors attached to the vehicle, takes off vertically and rotates to a horizontal position for flying around, The Atlantic explains. When the drone delivers an item, it hovers and winches packages to the ground, with a bundle of electronics known as an “egg” detecting that the package has hit the ground.
Google still has to test how its delivery service will work in reality, in which the drone will have to navigate through power lines, trees and other environmental challenges.
And its service, like Amazon’s, will still have to be approved by the FAA. The motion-picture industry has already run into controversy over its efforts to get the FAA to allow filmmakers to use drones in movie and TV production.
In its video, Google researchers explain their plans for Project Wing and document a test in which a drone delivers dog food to someone in Australia.