Light Reading

Now Google Planning Drones-to-Go

Dan Jones
8/29/2014
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Google has developed prototypes of self-flying delivery drones in a long-term project to deliver goods to consumers faster.

Project Wing -- out of the Google[x] skunkworks -- was revealed by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) in a video released Thursday evening. The project has been underway for two years and the company now has working prototypes.

"It's years from a product but it is ... the first prototype that we want to stand behind," says Project Wing founder, Nicholas Roy, during a video introducing the project.

Nonetheless, the video below shows a small drone taking off and delivering a product by winching it down to a surprised-looking homesteader somewhere in Australia.

The craft used will be familiar to anyone who enjoyed a misspent youth with their nose deep in science fiction. The Project Wing craft is a vertical take-off aircraft that sits on its tail when on the ground and then straightens up into a horizontal flying position when airborne, unlike hobbyist drones, which mostly resemble tiny helicopters.

"Project Wing aspires to take another big chunk out of the friction of moving things around in the world," says Astro Teller, captain of moonshots at Google [x] (really!), on the video.

Google has some runway left before commercial drones are even officially allowed to fly in the US. The Federal Aviation authority has been tasked by Congress to come up with a plan by September 15, 2015, for safe integration of commercial drones into US air space. This doesn't mean that the skies over Utah will be lousy with tiny unmanned aircraft on September 16 next year. The FAA has stressed that integration of unmanned aircraft will be taken in stages. The agency expects to publish its first ruling on small drones -- including commercial aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds -- sometime this year. (For more, see Here Come the WiFi Drones.)


For in-depth coverage of the IoT, smart grid innovation, and utility communications topics, visit Light Reading's dedicated content channels for the Internet of Things (IoT) and utilities communications sectors.


Google isn't the only Internet giant interested in delivery drones either. Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) revealed it was working on its own "Octocopter" delivery drone last year. (See Amazon Wants Delivery Drones.)

There are many issues to be addressed before delivery drones take to the air. Chief among them is reliable collision detection while the craft is in the air, and how to actually deliver packages safely to the ground.

Nonetheless, with big money from Amazon, Facebook and Google now backing drones, it may be less a question of whether pigs might fly but rather when unmanned bacon will take to the skies. (See Facebook Buys British Drone Specialist.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/5/2014 | 7:48:33 AM
Re: Not only for pizza, but pizza is a start
Natural forces and firearms will be gating factors for drones. I'm sure everyone will look forward to incessant buzzing and whirring at 2 am.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
9/5/2014 | 4:40:21 AM
Re: Not only for pizza, but pizza is a start
Mike, 

"A sense of responsiblity is also upon us as well. However, we have to somehow figure out a way to make sure all those whose stated aim is to make our lives better, to do so responsibly."

Indeed. Responsibility should be the fist thing to take into account in both designing and accepting the design of technologies/devices/AIs/etc.

It's easy to take a step back and put all the responsibility on the shoulders of Google, Amazon, and the others. They can create wonderful things with the best of the intentions, but it's always in the users where the final decision on what end the wonderful creation will have. And we both know there are all sorts of minds out there, don't we?    

"I am fearful of what Stephen Hawkin reminded us as Artifical Intellligence gathers steam. As an old fan of the new Battlestart Gallatica, I wonder about that..and for those who don't remember, this is the summary: "..When an old enemy, the Cylons, resurfaces and obliterate the 12 colonies, the crew of the aged Galactica protects a small civilian fleet - the last of humanity - as they journey toward the fabled 13th colony of Earth....""

AI is one of my favorite topics. There shouldn't be anything to fear of if AI would be used responsibly, something I regret to say I doubt it will happen simply because responsibility is not one of the humans' main strengths, generally speaking.

I believe you may like this United Nations and Battlestar Gallactica combination. It's worth the two hours you have to invest in watching it. :)  

 

-Susan
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/4/2014 | 11:41:48 PM
Re: Not only for pizza, but pizza is a start
Drones are inevitable, although I do think natural forces will limit their use. Technology can probably help mitigate that issue by using data to devise optimum times to fly.

Still, do we all want to see swarms of drones in the sky everyday?
mhhf1ve
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mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/4/2014 | 7:56:00 PM
Max load capacity?
Delivery drones are cool, but it makes me wonder what the average (or mode) weight of a USPS package is.. and how that compares to the max load capacity of a drone like this. I assume range is also an issue, so... how many launchpads would Amazon or Google need to really be able to cover a significant population?

And maybe... someday.. Netflix will regret ditching its DVD delivery service. :P
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/4/2014 | 8:19:45 AM
Re: Not only for pizza, but pizza is a start
Total acceptance and capitulation is one way to go. It certainly has worked for authoritarian regimes. "OK, so we've been dehumanized to some extent, but look! Pizza from the sky! Life is good!! I can't wait to share this with my Facebook friends!!!"
MikeP688
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MikeP688,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/4/2014 | 4:24:04 AM
Re: Not only for pizza, but pizza is a start
I absolutely concur that we have to keep smiling and never allow the World to change our smile.     A sense of responsiblity is also upon us as well.   However, we have to somehow figure out a way to make sure all those whose stated aim is to make our lives better, to do so responsibly.   Although Drones can have some fabulous opportunities (and they have been proven both in War, Peace and here and now), I am fearful of what Stephen Hawkin reminded us as Artifical Intellligence gathers steam.     As an old fan of the new Battlestart Gallatica, I wonder about that..and for those who don't remember, this is the summary: "..When an old enemy, the Cylons, resurfaces and obliterate the 12 colonies, the crew of the aged Galactica protects a small civilian fleet - the last of humanity - as they journey toward the fabled 13th colony of Earth...."  
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
9/4/2014 | 3:51:46 AM
Re: Not only for pizza, but pizza is a start
Thanks, Mike. Happy September to you, too. :)

Oh, the issue of privacy seems to be a neverending story. Privacy is an illusion already. I agree with you, the CCTV systems are almost everywhere, including the treetops in some places. So, what's the difference with a drone? Mobility? I insist on focusing in the potential of positive drone delivery. 

"When you're on the internet, you're being tracked. When you make a phone call,  you'r tracked. Therefore, we have to accept that privacy is a fiction."

Exactly. So, it's better to just keep smiling, and wear your best hat and sunglasses. :D

-Susan

 
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
9/3/2014 | 5:59:58 PM
Re: Not only for pizza, but pizza is a start
Or hire an angry ram to take them down for you:

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/wild-ram-headbutts-drone-out-the-sky-waits-for-pilot-to-turn-up-then-headbutts-him-too-9708321.html
mendyk
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50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/3/2014 | 4:44:45 PM
Re: Not only for pizza, but pizza is a start
It depends on the Hawaiian you have in mind.
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
9/3/2014 | 4:11:13 PM
Re: Not only for pizza, but pizza is a start
You sure you want to risk bringing down an extra-large Hawaiian on your head?
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