Google has been working on a drone-delivery system for at least a couple of years now, and although progress is slow, Google’s parent company “Alphabet” seems to be committed to seeing the project up and running. However, although there have been many advancements in drone technology over the years, reportedly Alphabet’s X division working on the so-called “Project Wing” still has numerous hurdles to overcome before setting a reliable drone-delivery system in place.
Google’s drone-delivery service was poised to launch in 2017, following the FAA’s green light to begin testing of unmanned aerial vehicles in the U.S. However, according to The Wall Street Journal citing an unnamed former employee working with Alphabet’s X division, progress in drone-delivery is slow, and although the company’s goal was to complete 1,000 flights without incident, it never managed to get past 300 flights. Reportedly, some of the issues experienced by the company’s “hummingbird” drone revolved around power failures, crashes, and the drone wandering off or attempting to land in trees. Nonetheless, dealing with and solving difficult technical challenges is part of Google’s X division’s usual M.O., and according to reports, X is currently working on solving problems such as deciding whether drones should have a fixed wing or multi-rotor copter design, as well as how to launch and fly them. The team is also trying to figure out whether the drones should land at delivery addresses or instead lower packages through a tether (as seen in a patent application last April). However, the former employee notes that Alphabet is first and foremost “a software company – not an airplane company”, meaning that progress at the X division might be slower than hoped for, at least in some areas.
Either way, Alphabet seems to be committed to making drone-delivery service a reality, and last September the X division conducted a test and successfully delivered a burrito from Chipotle to a Virginia Tech student. As part of the “Wing Marketplace” project, the company is also testing drone delivery in partnership with Domino’s Pizza and Whole Foods Market. The company also performed tests in collaboration with Starbucks but reportedly negotiations ended after Starbucks cited concerns in regards to access to customer data. At the end of the day, progress on Alphabet’s drone-delivery system might be slower than anticipated and only time will tell if the company will manage to launch the service next year.