Alphabet offshoot is the first drone company approved as an airline by the FAA, clearing the path for drone commerce.
Wing has received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) clearance and the same certification that smaller airlines receive, enabling the drone company to now offer regular deliveries of consumer items in Virginia. Google’s achievement comes ahead of expected drone delivery service by Amazon, and is a huge step forward for drone commerce. It opens the doors to Google providing direct delivery service to customers.
While drone regulations today do not allow flights over urban areas and crowds for safety, the FAA approval now allows Wing to delivery consumer goods in two areas in Virginia, with permission to expand to other regions. Wing has secured drone delivery approval in Finland and Canberra, Australia as well. Wing is the first company that meets FAA requirements for traditional charter airlines and smaller air cargo aircraft.
To achieve the certification, Wing had to create a lot of documentation for processes, safety and training similar to an air carrier. To receive permission, a company has to be owned by American citizens for safety under requirements by the Department of Transportation. The application took several months and has deterred other drone companies due to its extensive, rigorous requirements. However, Wing’s application should make other drone company approval easier. Deliveries are expected to start in a few months. Currently, images and videos used for navigation are not archived and given concerns about noise and privacy from prior testing.
Current drone operation requirements issued in 2016 limit deliveries beyond the eyesight of a ground operator. Automated flights over longer distances are prohibited as well as accepting payment. To charge for services and to operate over a longer range, Wing had to become a full air carrier.
The local community has been excited about the new venture.
While Amazon’s Prime Air would speed up deliveries for its Prime members nationwide, Wing will sell products from local merchants mostly and is currently looking for local partners in Virginia. Currently, Wing has done research at Virginia Tech and is offering deliveries in the Blacksburg and Christiansburg areas of Virginia. The company has also done extensive testing in Australia, where it will be offering deliveries in the Canberra region.
The Wing drone is a hybrid between a helicopter and plane. It can lift off vertically and fly horizontally at a high speed. The drone carries packages underneath and lowers them to people with a tether, while hovering in the air at a safe distance.
Drone technology has rapidly advanced in recent years. Drone technology is faster, cleaner and costs less to transport items. Kyxz Mendiola, an inventor from the Philippines, modified drone technology to launch his own flying car prototype.