Tech Talk: Google's Job Listing For Drone Whisperer


The delivery-by-drone market has yet to go public on a large scale in any form, but there are a good number of companies looking to change that. It's only natural that Alphabet would be on that list, particularly their X division. Google, Amazon, and a few other key players have been moving the space forward and even into unexpected territory such as the delivery of lifesaving organs. After rolling out some seriously envelope-pushing drone designs and testing the autopiloting waters, X seems to be moving on to the next phase of making drone delivery viable, being reliable and advanced software, as well as compliance with applicable laws. They're looking for somebody experienced who can play a starring role in this part of the venture and keep on top of things as the commercial rollout moves along, according to a job listing on the Google Careers site that shows a bit of the tech giant's humorous side, in stark contrast to their reputation as one of the most intense workplaces out there, albeit the best in America. The listing is looking for an airspace management-savvy software engineer, somebody who happens to "think that flying airplanes is cooler than crashing airplanes."

The person they're looking for has a number of qualities, past experiences and, of course, new responsibilities to look forward to. All of these traits for the ideal candidate can be used to speculate, with a small degree of accuracy, where Google is in the process of developing a software backend and aerial etiquette for their delivery drones and what they plan to do next. As well as having an affinity for aircraft doing what they do best instead of what their miniature cousins do in funny videos, the ideal candidate also needs to be a whiz with algorithms, as well as spatial and geometric reasoning. This, obviously, indicates a desire to have these drones pilot themselves. Being able to apply computer science principles in a large-scale environment says that the software and data backend for these drones may be mass-networked, with drones pulling from the nearest node as they make their journey. Experience with distributed messaging and job replication backs this up. Aside from the usual requirements for this sort of thing, Google also wants somebody who can take charge and figure out what needs to be done next; somebody who can "define and execute an ambiguous project: identify requirements, explore concepts, design, then implement solutions." This could mean that Google hasn't completely worked out all the particulars of how they're going to pull this off quite yet, but the goal is clear – self-piloting delivery drones and a network of nodes to power them, all running a replicated software backend and feeding each other data.


That said, let's analyze the actual job duties that this airplanes-not-crashing enthusiast will be facing down. First on this list: "Design and develop distributed backend service that integrates changing data from several peer nodes into a consistent spatial representation sufficient to support rapid route validation." In plain English, of course, this means Google wants somebody to write a software backend that can hand off collected data and make a good real-time approximation of a drone's surroundings to ensure the drone has as much information about its route as possible. Next up, "Use well-known policies and procedures to create, manage, distribute, use, store, and revoke digital certificates and manage public-key encryption for operators and aircraft." This indicates that the software engineer Google is looking for will also be a security expert. Obviously, taking security seriously in any nascent space is nothing but good, but these are delivery drones we're talking about. Anything from $20 worth of groceries to an irreplaceable family heirloom could wind up stolen or damaged if security is compromised.

This ties in nicely to the next requirement; "Work with your teammates and Google's Security Team to implement a secure, non-breakable environment for deploying an Airspace service that supports authentication, encryption, and non-repudiation." Next, Google wants their engineer to "Produce well-documented and thought-out APIs to be used by external organizations to efficiently share distributed state and request validation of spatial and temporal route information." This means that data will be requested of drones and nodes by third parties like governments, others in the air, and software engineers looking to integrate Google's delivery services into a product. A well-written API and good documentation for it can be the difference between seamless integration and a deal falling through.

Finally, of course, Google wants this person to "Participate in our team's software development processes, including software design, implementation, and review; test design, implementation, and review; process feedback and improvements." This is part and parcel of being a software engineer, indicating that Google is looking for an engineer first and an aeronaut second. This makes sense, seeing as their drone designs are mostly complete and now they're looking to get them in the air and doing what they were designed for. Put all of these factors together and the most likely indication is pretty simple; Google is done developing the drones themselves and now they need somebody who can write a software backend for them that can transmit data effectively, let authorized third parties in on the fun, keep their drones and nodes secure and, of course, keep the drones in the air and aware of their surroundings and destination.

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Senior Staff Writer

Daniel has been writing for Android Headlines since 2015, and is one of the site's Senior Staff Writers. He's been living the Android life since 2010, and has been interested in technology of all sorts since childhood. His personal, educational and professional backgrounds in computer science, gaming, literature, and music leave him uniquely equipped to handle a wide range of news topics for the site. These include the likes of machine learning, Voice assistants, AI technology development news in the Android world. Contact him at [email protected]

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