Wing, the drone delivery company owned by Google's parent company Alphabet, announced it will expand its autonomous drone delivery system beyond the original test cities of Canberra (Australia), Helsinki (Finland), Christiansburg (Virginia, US), and the Dallas-Fort Worth area (Texas, US).
Wing's drone delivery system is already being tested “at scale” in Logan, Australia, where the company delivers up to 1,000 packages a day, and another in the Dublin suburb of Lusk. In that trial, “we do a lot of grocery delivery, we do a lot of prepared food delivery, we do a lot of coffee delivery,” says Woodworth.
Decentralized and automated system for high-volume drone delivery
According to Adam Woodworth, CEO of Wing, the system acts more like a computer data network rather than a traditional transportation system. This network analyzes patterns in real-time to optimize pickups, drop-offs, flight paths, and drone charging based on makes most sense for the entire network. In this way, it will be able to adapt quickly to peaks in demand for particular areas and additional pads will be added accordingly.
“A tangible example of that would be: the aircraft takes off at one location, it might fly to another business to go pick up a box, and then it might fly to the delivery location and then, rather than returning to the pad it took off from, fly to another adjacent one,” Woodworth said in a BBC interview.
This decentralized and automated system can support high-volume drone delivery, be it across major metro areas or more sparsely populated regions. The network will be made of up of drones, base stations for takeoff, landing, and recharging, and autoloaders which will preload packages before being picked up.
Challenges of Autonomous Drone Delivery
Such a complex system involves a high level of automation, and safety will have to be of primary concern. Each time a drone is powered on, it must verify it is in the right location, running the correct software, and is approved to fly. Ground-based pilots will supervise the fleets of delivery drones to ensure they are operating safely and efficiently.
However, there are more than safety challenges to overcome. During its trials, Wing faced complaints about noise from some Logan residents. The company has invested “a lot of work into making the aircraft as quiet as they can be,” said Woodworth, and that the planning software is designed to avoid creating “drone highways,” where every flight passes over the same houses.
Wing has not specified how much this service will ultimately cost consumers, but current participants in the trial areas are not charged extra for drone deliveries. This will obviously change, as it is well understood in the industry that the high cost of autonomous drone delivery technology will require high volume to make the service profitable.
Let us know in the comments below what you think about Wing's Autonomous drone delivery expansion. We are curious to hear your thoughts.
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