A month after launching a full-fledged drone delivery service in Canberra, Australia, Wing has announced the trial of a similar service for a suburb in Helsinki, Finland — its first such effort in Europe.
Part of Google parent company Alphabet, Wing has been working on its drone delivery platform since 2013.
The company said that it’ll launch a trial service in the city’s Vuosaari district in June, delivering “fresh Finnish pastries, meatballs for two, and a range of other meals and snacks within minutes,” using its specially built aircraft.
The flying machine features fixed wings but also uses rotors to control its flight, and weighs about 5 kilos; for comparison, DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro quadcopter tips the scales at about 1.4 kilos. It can transport packages of up to 1.5 kilos and fly up to 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) on a single charge. The drone uses a tether to lower orders into a customer’s yard.
In a blog post announcing the pilot scheme, the company said the density of Vuosaari’s population made it “a great place” to launch the service. Strict safety regulations in many countries — including the U.S. — currently prohibit drone flights over populated areas, but Finland’s regulators are clearly satisfied with the safety reassurances offered by Wing.
Vuosaari’s physical location also makes it ideal for drone delivery, as it’s bordered on three sides by water. Delivery trucks coming from one part of the community have to cross a bridge, so drones have the potential to significantly cut delivery times.
Another reason the company is keen on taking its technology to Finland is that the country offers the kind of harsh winter conditions not experienced in the much warmer climes of Australia, where it’s been carrying out much of its drone development. “We’re pretty confident that if our drones can deliver here, they can deliver anywhere,” Wing said last year when it first announced its Finland plan.
Before Wing received official permission to launch its drone delivery service in a Canberra suburb in April, reports surfaced during the test phase of annoyance among some residents at the loud noise coming from the drones’ motors. With that in mind, Wing is keen to get locals onside before beginning its trial service in Helsinki by hosting a number of community events where residents can ask questions about the upcoming service and offer their own opinions about drone deliveries. Presumably, the company is trying to make quieter drones, too.
“Residents have asked smart questions about our aircraft, and provided a range of thoughts on how air delivery could improve their lives,” Wing said in its post, adding that many residents have expressed an interest in using the drones to order dinner or groceries.
With that in mind, Wing has partnered with a number of local businesses for its deliveries, among them a “gourmet supermarket” from which customers will be able to order “lasagna for two, a chicken caesar salad, or a classic home movie combo of popcorn, candy, and soda,” and a cafe offering a variety of goodies “from a salmon sandwich to a Portuguese sweet pastel de nata.”
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