Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has approved Project Wing’s plans for drone delivery of food and medicine in suburbs around the capital city of Canberra, a “world-first,” according to a new report by the Guardian. Project Wing, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet, has been testing self-flying delivery drones in Australia for over a year.
Project Wing (sometimes referred to as just Wing) has previously tested direct-to-consumer drone delivery at places like Virginia Tech in 2016, but this is the first time that the company has won government approval for relatively large-scale deliveries anywhere in the world. The deliveries will start with roughly 100 homes in the Canberra area.
The drones are reportedly required to operate during daylight hours and aren’t allowed to cross major freeways yet. Project Wing did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
“All those safety issues have been assessed so there are no risks to people on the ground, property, or aircraft in the sky,” a CASA spokesperson told the Guardian today.
It’s not immediately clear what retailers will be delivering via Wing’s drones, but four companies that have been involved in the early trials include a drive-through coffee chain called Kickstart Espresso, a chain bakery called Bakers Delight, Mexican fast food chain Guzman Y Gomez, and Chemist Warehouse, a drugstore similar to Walgreens or CVS in the U.S.
According to Wing’s website, the company’s Australian drone facility is in the suburb of Mitchell, and service will begin in the suburbs of Crace, Palmerston, and Franklin “in the coming weeks.” Assuming everything goes according to plan, it will expand to the suburbs of Harrison and Gungahlin in the following months.
Wing released a short concept video late last year to show how the deliveries are working in Australia.
Wing has also uploaded a video showing a testimonial from a woman who has participated in the drone delivery trials. She describes ordering from Chemist Warehouse and getting sunscreen delivered for her grandchildren within 7 minutes.
Another video uploaded to YouTube shows the testimonial of someone living in a “regional area,” which Americans would likely describe as rural.
The mother tells the story of how she once didn’t have any Panadol (the Australian equivalent of Tylenol) in the house and how her life would’ve been made a lot easier if she could’ve ordered the pain reliever by drone instead of having to get into her car with a sick child.
Drone delivery is an exciting and futuristic idea, but one of the biggest hurdles to overcome has been the noise. Wing’s promotional videos are dubbed with plenty of voice-over and music, but you can’t actually hear the noise made by the drones as they travel over neighborhoods.
They’re not exactly quiet, as you can hear from this video of a delivery in Canberra.
But once they get the whole noise thing figured out, there’s a really exciting world of delivery drones ahead. Assuming they don’t go all Skynet on us.