April 24, 2019
The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has given Google the greenlight to trial consumer drone deliveries, making it the first company in the US to be allowed to do so.
Google's drone division, Wing Aviation, was recently approved for commercial deliveries in Australia, after an extensive trial with local businesses, and it seems that it will repeat this process at select locations in the US.
The drones will be capable of delivering small items, such as food orders or medicine.
What are Google's Drone Plans?
In order to be able to carry out its consumer drone testing, Alphabet Inc, Google's parent company, had to receive approval from the FAA as an airline, meeting the strict regulations required by law for any operator of commercial flight vehicles.
Now that it's received approval, as reported in Bloomberg, Google plans to carry out trials in two rural communities in Virginia. This echoes the pattern of its trial in Australia earlier in the year, where it chose small suburbs to test the drones. Google has stated that deliveries will begin within the next few months.
These more rural locations allow for better testing environments, thanks to their open spaces, and lack of red tape, which can be the bane of drone enthusiasts in built-up areas.
What Sort of Items Will the Drones Deliver?
Naturally, you won't be taking delivery of your next fridge-freezer or couch via Wing's drone delivery service. In its Australian trial, the company worked with local businesses to provide small products that can be ordered online, such as food and drink, or even medicine.
As long as the items are small, the sky is the limit (pun intended). If the previous trial is any indication, the residents and businesses will receive full training on the drones and safety information about the new technology.
Google has other tech giants hot on its tail, including Amazon, which has been experimenting with drone deliveries, but has yet to be approved for any commercial cases. In the battle for airborne retail deliveries, Google has got there first.
When Can I Expect Deliveries in My Neighborhood?
The rollout of drone deliveries across the wider US could take some time. Aside from the logistics of creating a fleet of millions of commercial drones, there is also the thornier issue of the law.
Currently, drones are subject to very strict regulations, including not being able to fly them over crowds and urban areas, as well as the stipulation that they must not leave the operator's line-of-sight. This severely limits their scope as delivery vehicles, although Google's approval by the FAA could mark a sea change in the way that drones are perceived.
Then, there is the sticky issue of privacy and noise complaints. The Wing drones use video to help with navigation. Google states it doesn't retain any recordings, aside from those for technical analysis, but it's not too hard to imagine residents being concerned about video cameras flying over their property.
While Wing's approval by the FAA marks a significant moment for drones in the US, it will be some time until they are ubiquitous. It could be that automated ground vehicles could beat them to it. Amazon has been experimenting with delivery robots, and maybe one of Elon's Tesla taxis could be delivering your next extra-large pepperoni.
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