Wing, the Alphabet (Google) spin off, has quietly overtaken Amazon and other consumer drone delivery programs to be first to the finish line in the U.S. and around the globe. Earlier this month, Wing announced that the Australian government had given the company permission to move beyond their drone delivery trials to a fully functional, open for business, drone delivery service.
Today, Wing announced that they have become the first certified Air Carrier for drones in the United States – a certification which will pave the way for the company to receive authorization for consumer drone deliery in the U.S. The authorization follows successful testing of the delivery service both overseas and in Virginia, where the trials were part of the UAS Integration Pilot Program.
It’s the culmination of years of effort – a project that only an innovator with deep pockets like Alphabet could have attempted. “Wing has worked for six years to build a small, lightweight aircraft and navigational system that can safely deliver small packages on demand to specific destinations in only a few minutes,” says a company blog post. “Air Carrier Certification is an important step that will ultimately allow us to create air delivery services for communities in America.”
While the business case for drone delivery, especially in rural areas, is clear; receiving the certification required the company to prove the safety case beyond the shadow of a doubt. Wing worked to prove not only that drone delivery was safe – but that it was actually safer than the alternatives.
“Most importantly, FAA certification required us to submit evidence that our operations are safe. These submissions included data showing that a delivery by Wing carries a lower risk to pedestrians than the same trip made by car. Our drones have flown over 70,000 test flights, and more than 3,000 deliveries to doorsteps, driveways and backyards of our customers in Australia.”
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao says that the authorization is a step forward not just for drone delivery, but for drone integration. “This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy. Safety continues to be our Number One priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential,” said Chao.
Wing says that it’s first market will be in the test environment in Virginia. “Our next steps will be to further our participation in the UAS IPP in Southwest Virginia,” says the Wing article. “For the next several months, we’ll be reaching out to businesses and community members in the Blacksburg and Christiansburg areas to demonstrate our technology, answer questions, and solicit feedback with the goal of launching a delivery trial later this year.”
“For communities across the country, this presents new opportunities,” says Wing. “Goods like medicine or food can now be delivered faster by drone, giving families, shift workers, and other busy consumers more time to do the things that matter. Air delivery also provides greater autonomy to those who need assistance with mobility. Also, our all-electric drones will reduce traffic on our roads and pollution and carbon emissions in our skies.”