After years of development, Alphabet’s drone delivery service Wing is officially open for business.
The company announced the beginning of service for residents of Christiansburg, Virginia, who will be able to order over-the-counter medication, snacks, and other small items and have them airlifted straight to their homes by a drone.
Initially, Wing will deliver goods on behalf of three partner companies with FedEx, Walgreens, and Super Magnolia, a local Virginia grocery store chain.
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After years of preparation, Alphabet’s drone delivery service Wing has officially begun operations in Christiansburg, Virginia
The company made the announcement via a blog post on Medium and included a video showing how the delivery service will work.
The FAA approved Alphabet’s drone delivery program in March, and the company announced it’s plans for ‘store to door’ of more than 100 products in Virginia last September.
‘Walgreens continues to explore partnerships to transform and modernize our customer experience and we are proud to be the first retailer in the U.S. to offer an on-demand commercial drone delivery option with Wing,’ said Vish Sankaran, chief innovation officer, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., in a press release in September.
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Wing, the first commercial drone company approved by the FAA in the U.S. will start delivering in Virginia.
The drone is powered entirely by electric and can fly up to 120 km/h (almost 75 mph).
It emits no greenhouse gas and travels without any human guidance using the company’s AI and machine learning systems.
It can fly vertically and sideways and delivers products to consumers’ lawns by dropping them down safely with a tether.
‘With a customer-led focus, we continue to create differentiated shopping experiences that provide the products and services consumers need wherever, whenever and however they may want them.
‘This is the kind of omni-channel partnership and offering that can redefine convenience for our customers and communities – delivering items to homes in minutes, not hours or days.’
Christiansburg is in the vicinity of Wing’s testing zone, where it has been testing drone delivery as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Integration Pilot Program since 2016.
‘Although currently a pilot in one market, Walgreens is in a unique position to capitalize on the convenience of drone delivery if and when it should expand, with approximately 78 percent of the U.S. population living within five miles of a Walgreens-owned store,’ states the release.
‘The Wing partnership is a strong complement to other successful Walgreens collaborations.’
A worker in fills an order and places it into a special Wing packaging
A Wing delivery drone lowers a cord onto which the package is hooked and then lifted back up to the drone
‘As customers’ change the way they shop and adopt new technologies, strategic partnerships like this one help Walgreens expand its omni-channel offerings to meet the needs of its customers’ lifestyles – whether it be a busy working mom or a consumer with limited transportation options – and deliver greater value, convenience and accessibility to products and services.’
Although Walgreens sells almost every item you can imagine, the testing program is limiting what can be delivered through the skies.
A Wing drone arrives at a home and prepares to lower a package for delivery
Consumers will have the opportunity to choose from over-the-counter medications, but prescriptions will not be part of the program.
Eligible customers can choose from over 100 different products and six ‘packs’ to be delivered using the Wing app.
Customers in Virginia open their package from Alphabet’s Wing drone delivery service
The packs are organized by the following categories: allergy, baby, cough/cold, first aid, pain, and kids’ snacks.
The helicopter-like vehicles are completely autonomous and capable of flying up to 120 km/h (75 mph) using an all-electric power source with zero emissions.
Walgreens has teamed up with Alphabet’s drone delivery service Wing to bring food and beverage, over-the-counter medication and other items to consumers
According to a report from Bloomberg, Wing also has approval to carry out deliveries in Blacksburg, Virginia, though it is unclear when services might begin there.
Though Wing was approved by the FAA, the company said it will work with local governments to determine where and how its drones are deployed.
Among the major issues for commercial drone usage are those relating to privacy and noise.
‘There’s going to be a lot of learning for us as well, since this is a first of its kind and nobody really knows specifically the best applications,’ Wing CEO James Ryan Burgess told the Roanoke Times.
‘We think it’s actually in partnership with the community that we’ll find those answers together.’
The delivery service will be rolled out in Christiansburg, Virginia, which is in the vicinity of Wing’s testing zone – it has been testing drone delivery as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Integration Pilot Program since 2016
For Wing, approval of its U.S. operations marks one of several major steps throughout the past year, which includes a green light from Australia regulators who allowed public delivers from the company this month.
Its strides have outpaced that of Google’s main competitor in the commercial drone space, Amazon, whose service, Prime Air, plans to deliver the company’s products straight to consumers’ doorsteps.