A residential area of 2,000 households in a suburb of the Australian city of Logan was without power for hours on Thursday after a Wing delivery drone accidentally landed on a power line and caught fire.
The drone of Google’s sister company Wing was on its way to a customer with a meal, but for an unknown reason, the aircraft made an emergency landing halfway through the route.
Wing delivery drone makes controlled precautionary landing
The incident took place on Thursday, September 29, at 14:00 local time. A Wing delivery drone with a meal on board made a ‘controlled precautionary landing’ for an unknown reason. The device accidentally ended up on an 11 kV high-voltage line.
Initially, the drone appeared to survive the incident without damage. But as a result of a short circuit, the device caught fire after some time, according to local media. This led to a power outage, which lasted 45 minutes for 2,000 households. 300 homes had to wait a few more hours for a further inspection of the network. The high-voltage line was not damaged. Little was left of the drone but a burnt-out carcass.
“It’s the first time we’ve experienced this,” a spokesperson for energy company Energex told ABC News. “Maybe there was a malfunction. Or maybe there was human error.”
Wing confirms the incident and says it is investigating what went wrong:
“We can confirm that a Wing drone made a precautionary controlled landing yesterday in Browns Plains, Queensland, and came to rest on an overhead power line. We immediately reported this to Energex. Two hours later, a power outage occurred in the area. We apologize for any inconvenience. We are currently evaluating the incident.”
Wing drone crash raises questions
The incident raises many questions. Such as why the drone flew above a power line in the first place. A flight plan is automatically drawn up before each flight, in which overflying dangerous areas – such as high-voltage lines – should be avoided.
A second question is why the onboard sensors did not provide an evasive maneuver at the last moment. Wing states that the Wing delivery drones are equipped with multiple error detection systems and sensors that, among other things, must ensure that obstacles are avoided.
A third question is why it was not possible to intervene adequately by a human operator. According to Wing, the automatically performed flights are monitored by operators who can take control if the situation requires it.
Drone delivery capital
Last year around this time, Wing proclaimed the town of Logan the ‘drone delivery capital of the world‘. Since 2019, the 110,000 residents of various suburbs have been using Wing’s drone delivery service. In 2021, more than 50,000 orders were delivered by the drones, ranging from coffee to snacks and meals. Drone delivery turned out to be a popular delivery method, especially during the Coronavirus lockdowns.
But it is not the first time that setbacks have plagued Wing. For example, the delivery drones in the Australian capital, Canberra, had to be grounded for several months during the breeding season after the aircraft were attacked by ravens.
Noise pollution remains a recurring issue as well. Recently, Current Affair reported on complaints from residents who are regularly disturbed by the whining noise that the drones make.
“Such a drone sounds like a swarm of enraged mosquitoes. It drives me crazy,” says one of the residents in the report below.
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