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A subsidiary of Google, the Wing company, has been awarded federal approval to operate its drone delivery system. The company will operate as though it were an airline in the United States.
As a first for U.S. drone delivery companies, the Federal Aviation Administration has certified Alphabet’s Wing Aviation to operate as an airline. Starting off as a Google X project, Wing has been testing autonomous drones and its delivery program in Virginia.
The FAA’s approval allows Wing to begin commercially delivering goods between businesses and homes in the United States. This allows for many advantages in contrast to the traditional methods of delivery. Electric drones don’t emit carbon emissions and help reduce traffic on the streets. Commercial drone delivery also helps increase connections between communities and local businesses.
The FAA tells NPR.org that Wing was able to qualify for an air carrier certificate, allowing the company to deliver goods commercially, because Wing has proven to meet the FAA’s safety requirements.
The drones that Wing operates are electric and powered by 14 propellers. The drones are able to carry loads of up to 1.5 kilograms, allowing for the delivery of many everyday items, ranging from food to medicine to supplies.
Wing’s introduction into drone delivery services puts the company in direct competition of Amazon’s unmanned delivery service, Prime Air. The “Octocopter” drones that Amazon will operate are intended to be capable of carrying about 2.25 kilograms, allowing for the drones to ship about 85 percent of the products sold by Amazon.
It took about 3 years for Amazon to develop a safe and reliable drone system. By late 2016 Amazon has announced Prime Air, its fully autonomous delivery system.
Google has announced plans to bring the autonomous delivery system to Europe. Trials are expected to begin in the spring, delivering goods to homes in Finland.
Along with Google and Amazon, there are other companies experimenting with their own drone systems. Companies such as DHL and the United Parcel Service have been looking into autonomous delivery services.
At the end of 2018 there have been about 110,000 commercial drones operating in the United States, with projections estimating that number will quadruple by the year 2022.