Google's Project Wing building drone delivery service

Google's unmanned flying vehicles could one day deliver retail items to people's homes

A Google drone flies through the sky.

A Google drone flies through the sky.

For two years, Google has quietly been developing autonomous flying vehicles that can be used to deliver packages for disaster relief or for commerce purposes, the company revealed Thursday.

The program, dubbed Project Wing, has been housed under Google X, the company's secretive facility where it created other projects like Google Glass and its self-driving cars.

"Self-flying vehicles could open up entirely new approaches to moving goods -- including options that are cheaper, faster, less wasteful and more environmentally sensitive than what's possible today," the company says in a document describing the effort.

The drones are designed to follow a pre-programmed route at the push of a button, flying at 40 to 60 meters above the ground.

One goal is to have the unmanned flying robots deliver small items like medicines and batteries that can be used for disaster relief or to bring aid to isolated areas. The initial idea was to deliver defibrillators to heart attack victims.

"Even just a few of these, being able to shuttle nearly continuously, could service a very large number of people in an emergency situation," Astro Teller, Google's "captain of moonshots," as it calls its big projects, told the BBC.

Prototypes have already been built and tested delivering packages to remote farms in Queensland, Australia. The country was chosen because of its more open rules about drone use, the BBC said. Farmers there received candy bars, dog treats, cattle vaccines, water, and radios.

Eventually, Google might use the drones to deliver retail items to consumers at home, said a Google spokesman. Google has been working to expand its Google Shopping Express service, which right now uses cars for deliveries.

Amazon kicked off the delivery-by-drone craze in December when it said it was testing them for its packages, though some didn't take the idea seriously at the time.

Having unmanned vehicles buzzing around towns delivering packages seems like a radical and potentially dangerous endeavor, but Google's involvement further validates the idea. The company stressed that it's early days for Project Wing and it might be years before it comes out of testing.

For the next year, Google will focus on the safety system for the drones, to teach them to navigate around each other and handle events like mechanical trouble.

Also, "we have to fly efficient delivery routes that respect constraints such as noise, privacy, and safety of those on the ground, and we have to be good enough to deliver to an exact spot the size of a doorstop," Google said.

Project Wing was reported earlier Thursday by the BBC and The Atlantic.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags analyticsInternet-based applications and servicesGoogleinternetsearch engines

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Zach Miners

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?