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.)
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