Google delivery drone to start European trials

Google’s Wing drone is going to start trials for its delivery service in Finland by the spring of 2019.
7 December 2018

A Wing drone in action in Australia. Source: Wing

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has announced it will start trials for drone delivery services in Finland by the spring of 2019. The city of Helsinki will be the first European location for Wing, which has previously undergone tests in Australia.

The drone will able to deliver packages of up to 1.5 kilograms in weight after an order has been placed. The delivery could then take place in a matter of minutes. The company decided on its test location, as “Finns are internationally renowned for being early-adopters of new technologies”.

Flight re-imagined

With Wing’s delivery app, customers will be able to order a range of items, which delivery drones can pick up from a dispatcher and fly to the delivery destination, gently lowering the package to the ground in an assigned and precise location.

Wing’s Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) platform plans and manages the drones’ flight paths from take-off to landing, ensuring the flight routes consider obstacles such as buildings, trees, and other obstacles.

Each drone has a wingspan of approximately one meter and weighs around five kilograms and offer a total flight distance of 20 kilometers. Wing’s aircraft use a camera exclusively for navigation, and convert GPS signals into latitude and longitude to determine location and speed— a downward facing camera is used as a backup to GPS navigation. The unmanned aerial vehicles will be put to test throughout the Finnish winter during the day and night, testing capabilities in safely navigating adverse conditions.

The marketplace

Speaking to industry press, CEO of Wing, James Ryan Burgess, said that the company’s aim is to provide a service at a lower cost so that the recipient and merchant are charged in a “single number” of dollars when the service becomes commercially live.

Burgess went on to say that the US marketplace is complicated in terms of its regulatory environment and that the Federal Aviation Administration “has a tough job to do”, adding that Finland, on the other hand, where several other advanced drone projects are ongoing, is much more ‘”forward-looking”.

While whether the company will continue to receive funding from Google or Alphabet remains ‘up in the air’, Burgess said that Wing’s graduation to a separate company is exciting, but business viability will now have to be demonstrated to maintain confidence levels.