Google company Wing reveals plans for drone delivery network
Wing, a subsidiary of Alphabet which owns Google, has unveiled plans for a drone delivery network.
According to the firm, the economics of drone delivery improve “dramatically” with scale, and all of the key metrics (access, safety, and sustainability) become “far more meaningful” at large volumes. Wing plans to roll out elements of the Wing Delivery Network over the next 12 months, and will demonstrate them in new locations around the world this year.
By the middle of 2024, Wing expects the system to be capable of handling millions of deliveries at a lower cost per delivery than can be achieved on the ground for fast delivery of small packages. The technology is currently being tested “at scale” in Logan, Australia, where Wing delivers up to 1,000 packages a day.
“Up to this point, the industry has been fixated on drones themselves — designing, testing, and iterating on aircraft, rather than finding the best way to harness an entire fleet for efficient delivery,” said Adam Woodworth, Wing CEO. “Wing’s approach to delivery is different. We see drone delivery at scale looking more like an efficient data network than a traditional transportation system. As with many other areas of technology, from data centres to smartphones, the physical hardware is only as useful as the software and logistics networks that make it meaningful for organisations and their customers.”
The Wing Delivery Network is managed by logistics automation software that constantly allocates hardware resources at a city or metro-wide scale. The software manages three basic hardware elements: First, delivery drones, second are the “pads”, where drones takeoff, land, and recharge their batteries between trips and third are the “autoloaders” that enable preloading of packages for automatic pickup.
Wing said it has been working in recent years to enable drone delivery to integrate “seamlessly with existing delivery infrastructure” for restaurants and retailers. To do so the firm has launched delivery services from parking lots and rooftops, and also integrated with well-known delivery apps. “We’ve moved as many as one thousand packages per day in a delivery region of more than 100,000 people,” said Woodworth.