Google developing product delivery service via drones

Google logoСOn Thursday, Google unveiled its latest project: a product delivery service powered entirely by drone aircraft. Coming from the same Google X teams that developed the likes of self-driving cars and Google Glass, the drone program, currently dubbed Project Wing, received a feature-length reveal in The Atlantic.

The article's video showed a prototype drone dropping a package at an apparent height of dozens of feet, which was guided to the ground by a combination of a wire and an attached "egg" that slowed the drop to a near-halt just before reaching the ground and releasing a box. MIT roboticist Nick Roy received the lion's share of credit for putting the machine together during his two-year stint with Google X; he came to the project with experience in helping Navy drones navigate through zones that lacked GPS signals.

Google developing product delivery service via drones

In particular, Roy pushed for Google to employ a hybrid design, combining fixed-wing and helicopter elements, so that it could take off vertically in tail-sitter configuration. Google did not confirm that it will settle on this design for any final model. However, the wired "egg-drop" configuration will probably remain for the sake of both wind factors and safety concerns. Speaking of safety, Roy admitted the drones' detect-and-avoid system is far off, and this, among other concerns, has added years to Google's Project Wing time expectations.

The project's genesis was linked to a conversation about rapidly increasing delivery speeds, comparing the days of the Pony Express to firms like FedEx. "We’re starting to see same-day service actually change the world,” Google co-founder Sergey Brin told Roy. “Why would we think that the next 10x—being able to get something in just a minute or two—wouldn’t change the world?” (Perhaps it's been a while since Brin has gone to a supermarket.)

However, the report only indirectly addressed the Federal Aviation Administration's recent rejection of Amazon's proposed flying drones as a delivery mechanism, postulating that Google might use its lobbying clout as the project picks up steam to overturn any current restrictions. The feature also skipped explaining how Google might launch a product warehouse and distribution system from which drones would carry products to consumers.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Google, technologies

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