Earlier this month Wing – Alphabet’s areal drone delivery service – announced that it would commence flight operations in South East Queensland, specifically in the Logan City suburbs of Marsden and Crestmead. Today marks the first consumer delivery for the service with a local Logan resident making their first order and getting their delivery just a few minutes later.
We attended a community engagement launch in the Crestmead area and got some one on one time with both the Wing team and a Wing autonomous drone as well. Watching a drone precisely fly in, lower to 7.5 meters and then winch down a delivery over and over in a consistent fashion really speaks to the advantage of autonomous vehicles.
Speaking with the Wing team it’s clear that they are taking community engagement seriously, with the local residents, local government and the local vendors as well. Local is a very important part of this first stage of Wing, they are very focused on empowering the local areas not coming in and delivering there service their way.
So how does it work?
Firstly you have to live in one of the delivery areas, that’s the hard part. From there you can sign up for the service and once accepted the App will be available to you in either the Play Store or the Apple App Store. Once installed you can use the app to request any of the available products from the participating vendors, click deliver and the drone will being the goods to you.
Currently for Logan residents there are 4 vendors to chose from, Extraction Artisan Coffee, Harmony on Carmody Cafe, Friendly Grocer Crestmead and Browns Plains hardware. So you can get a great coffee, a sandwich, a few eggs and some nails, we’re not sure what all that together makes but we’ll take aerial delivery coffee any day of the week.
The drones have a current flight range of 10KM from the warehouse where all of the goods are kept for delivery. That’s one of the interesting parts of Wing, at least for now all of the items available in the app, including the Food and beverages are stored or prepared onsite at the central Wing operations centre. In Canberra where the service is more mature there are several fresh food vendors all operating out of the central location.
The local businesses either provide stock for standard items or have mini kitchens (all to standard of course) set up in the warehouse. This ensures that Wing gets you the goods as quickly as possible and without the need to coordinate a remote pickup before the delivery. However in time a more distributed model could be developed.
At the completion of each delivery the drone returns to it’s landing/ charging pad and touches down. That drone will then not depart for another delivery until it’s primary battery is almost completely full. Safety is another major focus for the Wing team who have built redundancy into every single part of the drone, down to having a second battery that is never used, just in case.
Each drone operator/ pilot is allowed to oversee up to a maximum of 15 drones at once. These operators are monitoring the telemetry from the drones ensuring that each drone under their care is operating within safety perimeters. While the drones do have cameras for the control of the drone the pilots don’t actually get those feeds to ensure users privacy, so feel free to grab the coffee off the back lawn starkers if you like.
Noise is another concern for both Wing and some residents. Having stood directly under a drone as it lowers itself into delivery position I didn’t find it obtrusive. Now, I’m not living with it day in and day out, however considering the obnoxiously loud cars and motorbikes that people seem to enjoy revving around the place I find these drones comparatively far less obtrusive.
Wing has spent a lot of time trying to make the drones less obtrusive. Since launching in Australia they have made 2 major changes, one they have lowered the pitch (tone) of the drone to make the noise less piercing and more familiar, and secondly they have managed to reduce the overall noise output. With Wing restricted to certain hours of daylight operations at least for now you need not worry about your sleep being disturbed by a drone, shame the same can’t be said for the local rev heads.
Wing is starting small at this stage with only 100 locals being inducted into the first wave of the roll out, so if you do live in either of these areas and you want awesome drone delivered goods then you should stop reading and start signing up.
DO you live in a Wing delivery zone? Give us a shout out and tell us how you find it.