It’s been a while since we last heard from Project Wing, X‘s moonshot drone delivery project. But after a few fallow months, the team posted an update today and it looks like the project has made quite some progress. Alphabet’s X unit is now testing the Project Wing drones in southeastern Australia, where its flying machines are making deliveries right to its testers’ yards.
This being southeastern Australia, we’re talking about pretty sizable yards, but that’s still a step forward for the project. Indeed, Google is now working with Guzman y Gomez to deliver Mexican food (there are echoes of the TacoCopter here) and Chemist Warehouse, a pharmacy chain.
The current Project Wing drones can fly at about 120 kilometers per hour, and from what we can tell, the basic setup here is a drone that can take off and land vertically with the help of a dozen or more rotors — and then switch to vertical flight for going longer distances. The deliveries hang under the drone and are then lowered to their final delivery point so the drone itself doesn’t have to land. While Google doesn’t say how big these drones are, we’re not talking about a little DJI drone here, but rather a pretty sizable craft.
The location in Australia obviously means that the drones can fly over pretty wide open land with few obstacles. Google notes that while its flight planning software takes care of pre-planning a route, it’s the drone’s on-board sensors that are responsible for avoiding obstacles both during flight and at the delivery location. For now, only a select number of testers can get their food delivered by drone, of course, but the idea behind all of these projects is to study the viability of a larger delivery network.
Google’s announcement comes about 10 months after Amazon started its own drone delivery tests in England. Both companies have been pretty quiet about their efforts in recent months, though it looks like we’re in for a few more updates as the end-of-year shopping season heats up (Amazon typically offers an update on its efforts around Thanksgiving).