Google is in your browser, in your phone, in your TV, in your kitchen, and soon, thanks to regulatory approval, it will be in U.S. skies making drone deliveries. As Bloomberg reports, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation have given Google subsidiary, Wing Aviation, approvals for it to make public drone deliveries.
To get those certifications, Google basically had to go through all the same hoops that small airline carriers do: providing extensive manuals as well as safety and training documentation. All that work, however, paid off, as Wing is the first drone delivery company to get FAA approval.
The government’s clearances allow for Wing to start charging for delivery of goods in Virginia with the ability to expand. The company will begin such deliveries in Virginia’s Blacksburg and Christianburg communities within months. We don’t know exactly what Wing will be delivering, other than it will start with stuff from local merchants. (So yeah, probably coffees.)
Google’s actually already had some practice making drone deliveries Down Under near Canberra Australia, dropping off everything from lattes to sunscreen. However, all that aerial convenience has also sparked a bit of a backlash with residents complaining about noise and the, well, drone of all those drones.
What’s also notable is that Wing has beaten Amazon to the punch when it comes to drone delivery. Jeff Bezos talked up his company’s plans for drone delivery back in December of 2013 but the company still hasn’t come to market with it yet. We know Amazon has at least been working on drones as the company received a patent for in-flight drone recharging in September of 2018.
Amazon isn’t Google’s only drone competition either. As it barrels toward its IPO, Uber has been looking at accelerating its own drone offerings. Over in India, food delivery company, Zomato acquired drone company TechEagle. And up in Iceland, Flytrex has been doing drone deliveries around Reykjavik for more than a year.
The fact that that the government basically requires the creation of an air carrier to carry out commercial delivery activities could mean that this (air)space will only be available to those giants like Google and Amazon, which have the deep pockets and resources to pour into the lengthy regulatory approval process. There are startups popping up to help with the regulatory thickets around drone delivery like AirSpace Link, which helps companies figure out FAA-approved flight paths for drones. But at least for now, the drone delivery future seems to belong to the big companies.