Google Drones Could Be Coming to Doorsteps


Google is the world’s most used search engine, and their research lab could soon be finalizing drone prototypes coming to doorsteps. The web-based company is expanding its markets into the lucrative package delivery and commerce industry. The Google X research lab from Google Inc. said Thursday that they have been working on a system of drones that would deliver items like food, water and everyday household appliances with their prototype called “Project Wing.”

The prototype is reportedly 2.5 feet in height, 5 feet in width, has a single-wing and has four propellers at the top that move in multiple positions for various stages of flight. A recent test flight in August air-lifted two radios to local farmers in Queensland, Australia. The successful test was not the only one executed in August, as 30 more followed. What is said to be the “first phase” of Project Wing is part of a confidential drone program that has been in the process for over two years at Google X.

Google chose an interesting design model for the drones that could be coming to doorsteps.  Labeled the “Tail Sitter,” the model is a cross between a plane and a helicopter. The mobile device takes flight vertically into the air, and then revolves around to a horizontal angle for acceleration. Upon delivering a package to one’s doorstep, the drone hovers for a moment before slowly releasing the item to the ground. There is reportedly a tether attached to an electronic device called the “egg,” which records information that the item has been properly delivered, and detaches itself from the package. The packages themselves are put into a small space in the center of the wing.

Google, started running test flights back in 2013. The company had previously been analyzing how to build a flying robot that could deliver multiple products around a city in only a few minutes. While Google’s research lab has been working on everything from drone alterations to delivery mechanics, as well as gaining experience in controlling it with an app, the mobile vehicle still has a ways to go.

The company acknowledged this by stating that it could “take several years to successfully provide a service which had multiple vehicles in flight, and dropping off multiple packages a day.” The company has said that its aim is to have the Project Wing flying to a number of destinations at a height of 140 to 200 feet in the air at the push of a button. Google desires that its devices can create opportunities to grow economically by transferring goods and services in a more efficient way.

Nick Roy, who previously worked as an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was hired by Google in July of 2012 to lead the project. Google hopes the plane type hybrid can withstand dropping off items that weigh 5 pounds or less in the span of a 10-mile radius, close to home based warehouses.

Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington who studied in the robotics field, offered this on the probability of the company’s long term goal: “I’m not sure that Google is in any better of a position than Amazon or anyone else as far as technology goes, but the company does have an impressive track record as far as being massively influential,” he stated. With updates of technology that could be presented at front doorsteps, Google appears optimistic in terms of what is coming from drone delivery. Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, believes that the drone project is the next step toward a “technological society.” According to Brin, “It is ultimately where we are headed socially.  This is now how the world is working.”

By Theodore Borders

The Wall Street Journal
The Atlantic

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