Following at least two years of rumours, Google has confirmed it is developing a drone-based delivery program called Project Wing.
According to the BBC and The Atlantic, the Google X team at Google has been working on Project Wing for a couple of years. Google confirmed these reports via a video published on 28 August. The video shows Project Wing drones behaving a lot like the Amazon drones announced last year. Although Project Wing can be used to deliver purchased goods online, similar to Amazon, the company is imaging a more humanitarian application: disaster relief.
"Even just a few of these, being able to shuttle nearly continuously could service a very large number of people in an emergency situation," Google X's Astro Teller told the BBC in an interview. He also admitted to The Atlantic that dozens of people are currently working on the project, with the hope of delivering goods to people in a quick and efficient manner.
Boasting a wingspan of about five feet, each Google drone features four electrical propellers and weighs about 19 pounds. It appears the weight of the drone and the item it is delivering can only weigh 22 pounds, meaning it will be limited to delivering small goods. Other features include a computer near the tail, power at the front, and hardware like GPS, cameras, radios, and an inertial measurement sensor comprised of accelerometers and gyroscopes.
The drone's delivery system centers around a string that's actually a fishing line as well as a grip called an egg. This setup will deliver the goods safely to people, so they won't have to stick their hands near the sharp propellers. Google ultimately wants the drone to be controlled by both computers and people, just in case a package should get stuck somehwere. Human interaction could also improve the automated software.
Originally developed as a way deliver defibrillators to people having heart attacks, Google has clearly broadened its noble scope but still faces many hurdles. The company has been testing Project Wing in Australia, for instance, in order to avoid regulatory hurdles and complications in the US.
"It’s gonna take conversations with the public and with regulators. But so far in the conversations we’ve had over the last two years, and more intensely over the last couple months with regulators, I’m cautiously optimistic that everyone wants the same thing,” Teller told The Atlantic. “Everyone wants the world to be a great place that’s safe and has the benefits of the technology with as little or no downsides as possible.”
Watch the video above, published by Google on YouTube, for more information on Project Wing.