It's been a long haul, and an uphill battle no matter who you ask, but it looks like Google is finally getting ready to pull the trigger on delivery drones. The technology has been mostly there for some time, barring some regulatory hurdles, but only recently was it put to the test when Google ran a pilot program with drones delivering Chipotle cuisine to a limited subset of users in Virginia. That test was largely a success, and now it seems that Project Wing is not only getting off the ground, so to speak, but it will be easy for users to order what they want and see it literally fly to their door. Reports have come in about an upcoming "Wing Marketplace", where participating vendors will offer up their goods for delivery, and by adding $6 on to your order, you can have a drone bring it to you. The first such vendor is set to be Domino's Pizza, but others are jumping on board, including places that wouldn't normally deliver. Talks fell through with Starbucks, which may put a damper on the service's initial rollout, but that could be sorted out by the time it actually hits the skies.
Legal hurdles aside, Project Wing faces competition from Amazon, among others, who promises to be a worthy adversary, especially given their existing retail chops, something that Google does not have going for them except in the indirect form of Google Shopping. Project Wing's very own market, the Wing Marketplace, won't be Google's first rodeo in regards to shopping, nor will it even be the first one where they've collaborated on with various retailers to deliver goods to consumers who would normally have to make a shopping trip; Google Express holds that distinction. No, Wing Marketplace's big sell is that it's drone-based. This screams "early adopter", and rightly so; if you really want food and groceries delivered from places that wouldn't normally deliver, there are probably a few other ways to go about it. The Wing Marketplace is going to be all about user experience and, of course, the fact that users will be helping to make a statement to businesses and lawmakers; that drone-based delivery services are valid, and they want them. Of the possible methods for drone delivery on a massive scale, the same AI-based autopilot present in self-driving cars is proving to be the most popular choice, and policy thus far does not seem to favor such an approach, to say the least.
Drone delivery, or indeed any kind of mass, non-human controlled drone operation, still faces significant regulatory hurdles, but Google is determined to get the ball rolling and put food and other goods in the sky. While they'll be competitors once things are going proper, help from other delivery drone planners, especially Amazon, is going to be pivotal in deciding on standard practices for the burgeoning market space, and in convincing regulators to let our shopping lists take to the open skies. Google is under no delusion about just how things are at the moment; Google X director Astro Teller said as much, stating that Project Wing has faced many a hurdle since its inception, but he also said that the project is showing no signs of slowing down at the moment, and certainly won't be grinding to a halt any time soon. Much like what happened with self-driving cars, it seems that Google and others in the space are going to address regulatory hurdles as they come, and do as much development and testing as they can within the bounds of what is technically legal within testing territories.