Drone-delivery leader Wing is gearing up to launch its first service in a major U.S. metro area.
Up to now, the Alphabet-owned company has been trialing drone-delivery services in several cities in Australia and Finland, as well as the small community of Christiansburg, Virginia, with more than 130,000 commercial deliveries completed globally to date.
Now Wing is aiming to launch in Little Elm and Frisco in North Dallas in the coming months, enabling “thousands” of residents to order a range of goods — including medicines, foods, and household essentials — from local businesses via their smartphone for delivery by drone a few minutes later.
In another first, Wing says it will use the trial to test a “new model for drone delivery” where employees at each local business — beginning with Walgreens — will operate their own drone hub, loading up the flying machine themselves before sending it on its way, rather than wasting time transferring orders to a central hub some distance away.
In a blog post outlining its plan to launch drone-delivery services in Dallas, Wing said it’s spent the last four months engaging with the local community, addressing any concerns about the delivery service while at the same time explaining the value it believes it can bring to the local population.
“We want to make sure [our customers] understand that it’s safe, that it’s reliable, that it’s consistent — and that they’re going to enjoy a service they’ve never seen in their lives,” said Steven Yates, Wing’s U.S. operations manager.
In Australia, some communities where Wing tested its service complained about drone noise as the vehicles buzzed overhead on delivery runs. This prompted Wing’s team of engineers to build a quieter drone.
Wing’s autonomous delivery drone has been years in development and has undergone many design changes. The current model features a top speed of 65 mph and can make deliveries to locations up to six miles from the launch spot. When it reaches its destination address, the aircraft lowers the ordered item on a tether to the customer’s yard or driveway before flying back to base.
Regulators have been cautious about letting drones fly over urban areas and out of the line of sight of the operator, so a lot is resting on Wing’s latest trial service. If it can operate efficiently and safely, while at the same time keeping the local community on board, then we can expect Wing’s drone-delivery service to reach more U.S. cities over time.
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