Wing, an Alphabet company, has built a small, lightweight aircraft and navigation system that can deliver small packages--including food, medicine and household items--directly to homes in minutes. Created in 2012, Wing has conducted more than 80,000+ flights across three continents. We believe drone delivery will improve the way our cities operate by reducing road congestion and creating new economic opportunities for local businesses.
Wing drones are custom-designed to deliver packages safely, reliably and very quickly. You can see how the process works at a high level here on our website.
In summary, once a customer submits an order via the Wing mobile app our drone flies to pick up the package at our delivery facility. The drone then climbs to a cruise height on average of about 45 metres (150 feet) above ground, flying to the designated delivery destination in several minutes. Once at the customer destination, the drone slows down, hovers, descends to a delivery height of 7 metres (23 feet) above ground, and then lowers the tether and automatically releases the package in the desired delivery area. There is no need to unclip or assist with the delivery of the package. The drone then climbs back to cruise height and returns to the Wing site.
This process differs for Wing’s trial with FedEx in Christiansburg, Virginia. Recipients of FedEx Express shipments, who live in eligible delivery zones in Christiansburg, VA, and who opt-in to participate in the program via wing.com/virginia, may receive qualifying packages via drone. FedEx Express packages are loaded at the Wing-operated site. The Wing-operated drone will then follow the same delivery procedure as described in the paragraph above. FedEx recipients can continue to track delivery updates through normal FedEx tracking channels. Wing will send SMS text notifications to recipients to confirm delivery.
After a customer places an order, our unmanned traffic management (UTM) software plans a route designed to avoid obstacles and meet regulatory requirements. Once planned, the UTM software indicates to the aircraft that it is safe to fly to the customer’s delivery location. The aircraft automatically monitors its systems to make sure it is safe to fly and will prevent takeoff or automatically take contingency actions if a problem is detected. Our trained pilots oversee everything to make sure the system is operating smoothly.
Wing’s aircraft is designed to deliver small packages that weigh approximately 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs) or less. We’ve delivered fresh foods, medicines, household items and tools to users thus far, and we hope to deliver any items that communities find useful in the future.
Our customers do not interact directly with the delivery drone, as there is no need to unclip or assist with the delivery of the package. The aircraft hovers around 7 metres (23 feet) above the ground and lowers the package to the ground slowly, attached to a tether. We ask customers to remain 2 metres (6 feet) away from the package drop-off point to avoid interfering with the delivery process. After the package reaches the ground, it is released from the tether. The drone reels in the tether and flies away, and the customer can pick up the package.
We have multiple safeguards built into our operations. If someone were to pull on the tether as the drone tried to deliver a package, the tether would release itself with the package and the drone would return to the site.
Wing’s delivery drones are among the safest way to transport goods; they are safer for the community than having goods delivered by truck or car, or having to get into a vehicle yourself to pick up an item from a store. We’ve flown more than 80,000 test flights and made thousands of deliveries to test, improve and confirm the safety of our operations. In addition, we have multiple levels of redundancy built into our operations, including real-time systems that conduct health and safety checks on our drones and qualified pilots who oversee operations. To offer our service, the safety of Wing’s aircraft, personnel and operations are rigorously reviewed and all operations can only be undertaken with the approval of the regulators in each country we operate.
Initially we will operate during daylight hours and in favourable weather conditions. However, our drones are designed to fly safely delivering a package in a strong breeze and rain.
For the purposes of our current operations, we are allowed to fly without Air Traffic Control clearance because our delivery drones are flying under 120 metres high (400 feet) and are sufficiently far away from the nearest airport. However, as an additional safety precaution, our trained pilots closely monitor for local air traffic entering the operating area.
Our drones are quieter and much shorter in duration than a range of common noises you would usually experience in a suburb, but they do make a unique sound that people are unlikely to be familiar with. We’ve recently developed new propellers that emit a quieter, lower pitched sound that blend in better with other sounds in a residential neighbourhood, like cars driving by in the street. We’re continually looking for ways to improve our technology, and sound reduction measures are on the top of our list.
Wing aircraft carry a still-image camera used exclusively for back-up navigation in the event GPS is unavailable. The safety camera points downwards and cannot be “aimed” towards particular objects. At no time is there a live feed of photos from the camera to anywhere or anyone, including the safety pilot supervising flights. In practice, people who do not use our service will not be recognisable in a photograph while our drone flies to its delivery destination.
We’re always looking for community feedback so if you have questions about our company or service, or are keen to sign up to be one of our first customers, please visit wing.com.
We’re excited to connect with local businesses to learn about how we can help them reach more customers faster, safer and more sustainably. If you are a local business owner interested in participating in our service, you can get in touch at wing.com/contact.