For the last two years, Google X, the company’s secret R&D lab that works on future technology, has been developing delivery drones. Yesterday, they unveiled Project Wing via an exclusive interview by Alexis C. Madrigal of the Atlantic. At the moment, the drones are still in the test phase, but initial uses for the drones could include delivering humanitarian aid to disaster areas. (Eventually, maybe they’d be used to deliver that espresso maker you ordered online and just have to have, right now. But don’t hold your breath!)
“Even just a few of these, being able to shuttle nearly continuously could service a very large number of people in an emergency situation,” explained Astro Teller, captain of Googles X’s Moonshots, in a video.
As part of the demonstration, a drone delivered dog treats to a man living in a remote part of Australia. Hey, the dogs probably saw it as an emergency. Australia was chosen for testing because the country has more relaxed rules than the United States about the use of drones.
The 22-pound drone is hybrid aircraft able to take off vertically and then fly horizontally. Known as a “tail sitter,” the drone has a blended wing design, meaning that most of the 5-foot craft is wing. Four electrically driven propellers give it lift and forward flight.
“Self-flying vehicles could open up entirely new approaches to moving things around—including options that are faster, cheaper, less wasteful, and more environmentally sensitive than the way we do things today,” a Google spokesperson told Wired.
When it arrives at its destination, it hovers over the delivery site and lowers the package to the ground using a cable and winch system.
In the video, the Australian dogs munch happily on their treats from above.
To get these kinds of drones flying in the United States, though, will take some effort. As Madrigal explains in the Atlantic piece, Google may have to do what they did with self-driving vehicles and lobby regulators on their behalf.
Credit: Google via Youtube