From steamships to railroads, from the Pony Express to modern delivery services like FedEx and DHL, advances in how we move goods from place to place have helped reshape the world. But, there’s room for improvement. Whether it’s the parent stuck at home with two sick kids and no dinner, the farmer out in the field with a broken tractor and no tools, or emergency service workers that need medical supplies at the scene of a crisis, current methods of road transportation are not always fast enough to solve the problem at hand. The transportation of goods has also added to the increase of CO2 gases emitted into the atmosphere — in the U.S. alone, 27% of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation.
Project Wing is an autonomous delivery drone service aiming to increase access to goods, reduce traffic congestion in cities, and help ease the CO2 emissions attributable to the transportation of goods. Wing is also developing an unmanned traffic management platform that will allow unmanned aircraft to navigate around other drones, manned aircraft, and other obstacles like trees, buildings and power lines.
Wing is developing a new method of transporting goods that’s faster, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly than what’s possible today on the ground.
Light energy-efficient design enables the drones to fly up to 120 km/h, driven entirely by an all-electric power system with zero carbon emissions.
Delivery drones fly up to 400 ft above the ground and can safely deliver packages to a location the size of a doorstep.
Machine learning algorithms help the drone find a safe and convenient location for delivery amongst obstacles like trees, buildings, and power lines.
Wing has conducted tens of thousands of test flights both in the U.S. and in Australia over the past six years. In 2012, the team initially set out to explore how self-flying vehicles could safely and quickly deliver everything from medicine to food. They designed a system that could bring defibrillators to people having a heart attack with the hope that lives could be saved if the devices arrived faster in the air. The team soon learned that integration into emergency medical services was it own huge task — developing safe and reliable drone technology was a challenge unto itself. So, they honed their focus on redesigning the system to transport small packages, across many everyday situations, where the speed of delivery was a significant factor.
Over the next year, the Wing team investigated different approaches to vehicle design, built prototypes, and ran experiments and test flights. The goal was to learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible, to improve the safety systems and precise navigation required to operate in the congested modern world.
The team is focused on refining how the delivery drones transport packages directly to suburban yards. Most recently, they’ve completed hundreds of deliveries to the yards of several homes in the Australian Capital Territory and Queanbeyan regions of Australia. The goal is to determine how to find the best route to a home and how to find a safe delivery spot in the yard. The Wing team is also learning how drone delivery might be useful in people’s everyday lives by transporting meals, groceries, medicine, and even spare car parts in the event of a breakdown.
In July 2018, the team graduated from X to become “Wing”, an independent Alphabet business. They are building a drone delivery system to improve the speed, cost and environmental impact of transporting goods, and an unmanned-traffic management platform to safely route drones through the skies. Wing will continue to collaborate closely with industry partners, regulators, and the broader aviation community to develop a common approach to safely and scalably managing drone traffic in the skies, so the potential of low-altitude airspace can be unlocked.