After being the first drone operator to be granted its Air Carrier Certification earlier this year in April, Wing (a subsidiary of Alphabet) has partnered with FedEx, Walgreens, and local craft goods retailer Sugar Magnolia to conduct a “first-of-its-kind” drone delivery trial later this fall.
The trial will take place in Christiansburg, Virginia, and will attempt to evaluate the benefits and efficiency of drones as an alternative to trucks or cars for last-mile delivery. The trial will be part of a test conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Unmanned Aircraft System Integration program, which seeks to “help tackle the most significant challenges to integrating drones into the national airspace and will reduce risks to public safety and security.”
For FedEx customers who live inside designated areas and opt-in to Wing’s service, Wing has designed a custom drone delivery box that will allow for the delivery of packages via drone directly to their home.
Meanwhile, Walgreens plans to deliver over-the-counter medicine and other typical pharmacy goods (but not prescription drugs) by drone, with shipments potentially arriving within minutes of ordering.” By speeding up delivery times, Walgreens hopes to improve the accessibility of healthcare in the area.
That said, the company with the most to gain may just be Sugar Magnolia, which through the use of drone deliveries, could extend its availability and service beyond that of other local competitors.
Wing’s drone delivery trial follows years of planning and development by Amazon to create a similar service, which debuted its own custom package delivery drone earlier this year in June. However, aside from a select number of test flights, Amazon has yet to roll out a more widespread trial, which back in June, was expected to launch “within months.”
So while drone deliveries and flying cars may be taking a bit longer to become mainstream, little by little it seems at least one small section of our sci-fi future is becoming a reality. And if you happen to live in Christiansburg and want to become part of the trial, you can sign up or learn more about Wing’s program here.