Alphabet’s Wing Aviation Drones Get FAA Approval

Google’s parent company, Alphabet has a Wing Aviation division that actually grew from a Google X project. It was designed to be a drone delivery service, but has been waiting for approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.  Fortunately, this week, the FAA has finally certified Wing Aviation to operate as an airline, marking the first such designation for US drone delivery. 

In a statement, Wing said, “Air Carrier Certification means that we can begin a commercial service delivering goods from local businesses to homes in the United States.”

Wing had already been granted permission to deliver to 100 home in Canberra, by the Australian regulator CASA.  And this was only after an 18-month trial that resulted in 3,000 successful deliveries. 

Wing says there are many advantages to unmanned drones that deliver packages.  These benefits include reducing carbon emissions and road congestion as well as increasing social connections between local businesses and the communities they serve.  

And they accomplish this with drones specifically designed for this type of transport. The electric drones in Wing’s fleet are powered by 14 propellers. Mostly mounted on top, the high propeller count help the drones to carry loads weighing up to 1.5 kilograms.  That is equivalent to about 3.3 pounds.  The goal is for these drones to deliver a wide variety of common items from food and drink orders to medicines to emergency supplies. 

The development of delivery drones—and an associated retail system that networks customers with local merchants—Alphabet can directly compete with Amazon, who has long been working on an unmanned delivery system.  Amazon calls this service Prime Air.

Accordingly, FAA Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao comments, “This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy. Safety continues to be our Number One priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential.”

Indeed, this is a very important step for Alphabet’s concept as Amazon is not the only competitor in the field.  It makes a lot of sense for traditional delivery companies United Parcel Service and DHL Express have been working on their own drone systems.  Obviously, they need to expand their mindset and footprint to stay relevant in this quickly changing environment.