With companies from Amazon to Dominos attempting to perfect drone-based delivery it was only a matter of time before Google unveiled its vision, called Project Wing. First conceived of as a more efficient way to rush defibrillator kits to people suspected of having heart attacks, Google’s self-flying vehicle is being developed at Google X, the company’s secretive tech research arm, which is also responsible for its other autonomous vehicle project, the self-driving car.
The Project Wing team recently tested its drone prototypes in the remote outback of Queensland, Australia, delivering a variety of small packages to a pair of local farmers. The location was selected as a test site due to what Google calls Australia’s “progressive” rules about the use of drones, which often are more tightly controlled in other parts of the word.
With a wingspan of approximately 1.5m (4.9ft), Project Wing is larger than many rival drones, such as the Amazon PrimeAir delivery vehicle that CEO Jeff Bezos revealed on the TV news magazine 60 Minutes last year. Powered by four electrically-driven propellers, the Google drone weighs 8.5kg (18.7lb) and can take off and land without a runway. Hovering above its destination, the drone drops its load on a string, a design decision made because research showed people could otherwise have been prone to injury from the propellers when attempting to grab the packages.
“Self-flying vehicles could open up entirely new approaches to moving things around—including options that are faster, cheaper, less wasteful, and more environmentally sensitive than the way we do things today,” a Google spokesperson told reporters in an email.
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