Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Google X takes wraps off project developing autonomous delivery drones

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August 28, 2014

Project Wing is a Google X project aimed at developing self-flying delivery vehicles

Project Wing is a Google X project aimed at developing self-flying delivery vehicles

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Google has taken the lid off a previously secret project that is being run out of its semi-secret Google X research arm. Project Wing is focusing on the development of "a delivery system that uses self-flying vehicles." In other words, unmanned drones intended to autonomously deliver packages where and when they're needed.

The projects worked on at Google X are often so ambitious that they might otherwise be written of as pie in the sky concepts dreamt up by mad scientists. On the contrary, though, Google X tends to show that its ideas – the ones we find out about, at least – are not just feasible, but are potentially world-changing – and it does so prolifically. It is responsible for Google Glass, a glucose-monitoring contact lens, balloons that provide internet access to remote areas and, most recently, the Project Tango mobile phone that maps its surroundings in 3D.

Google has released footage of a Project Wing test flight in Australia

The latest project to come out of the facility has the humble aims of moving things around quickly and safely. "Throughout history there have been a series of innovations that have each taken a huge chunk out of the friction of moving things around," says Captain of Moonshots (actual job title) at Google X, Astro Teller (actual name). "Project Wing aspires to take another big chunk of the remaining friction out of moving things around in the world."

Those of you up on autonomous drone delivery news may find all this somewhat familiar. Indeed, towards the end of last year, Amazon announced that it had plans to develop a means of delivering packages using drones. The goal of the system, Amazon says, is be to get packages into customers' hands within 30 minutes. Google's aim, according to a BBC report, is to develop a way of delivering aid to isolated areas during times of disaster relief.

Project Wing has reportedly been in development for around two years

According to Google, Project Wing has been in development for around two years. A video released by the search giant of a test flight in Australia shows a winged, shuttle-like craft taking off vertically using what appear to be four front-mounted propellers. The craft, named Chickadee 6 judging by the footage, navigates its way autonomously to a predefined location. Hovering above the treeline, it gently lowers a package to the ground on a cord, breaks off its attachment to the package and reels the cord back in before returning home.

The founder of Project Wing, Nicholas Roy, explains that the tests are aimed at demonstrating a "reliable system that can do autonomous delivery." In addition, he says the tests will help the team to learn what it's like to actually make a deliveries to someone using the technology and what it's like for the recipient. "It's years from a product," says Roy, "But it is the first prototype that we want to stand behind."

The video below provides an introduction to Google Wing.

Source: Google

About the Author
Stu Robarts Stu is a tech writer based in Liverpool, UK. He has previously worked on global digital estate management at Amaze and headed up digital strategy for FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology). He likes cups of tea, bacon sandwiches and RSS feeds.   All articles by Stu Robarts
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7 Comments

Great concept but reality sucks. I can tell it's Australia because of the kangaroo. Yep, this is urban Australia for sure! (Only urban Aussies wear clothes).

I see drones texting us, "We value your time and thank you for waiting. While you are waiting please check out our latest promotion. If you fail to meet the drone when it arrives then it's all your fault".

It will not be all it promises to the consumer; but many promises for the supplier.

Threesixty
29th August, 2014 @ 03:40 am PDT

This is great for areas that have no infrastructure, but for urban areas having airplanes or drones is ridiculous - a physical deliver system with cars, scooters or other means makes much more sense (and is already done) and can deliver more weight and even be quicker.

Nice tech though.

chrisnfolsom
29th August, 2014 @ 05:49 am PDT

awesome, lisc & mass produce drones for many uses alone

& upscale for larger packages alone or sensor modules;.

have DIY kit to assemble types.

Stephen N Russell
29th August, 2014 @ 08:52 am PDT

Next, drones used for skeet shooting practice greatly improve shotgun skills.

grtbluyonder
29th August, 2014 @ 10:30 am PDT

"It's years from a product." Yet VertiKUL seems to have something that's pretty close , although still a little crude, but certainly ahead of them in terms of a public demonstration. Google's deep pockets may crush them, either through Apple-like patent warfare or being able to develop their prototype faster. But it goes to show that "Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have." (Steve Jobs) Still, a good idea with significant advantages over quadcopter drones.

Bruce H. Anderson
29th August, 2014 @ 11:38 am PDT

A real need for remote parts delivery in the out back i have had to drive all day one way just to bring a exploration crew a small part

Ray Rush
29th August, 2014 @ 03:28 pm PDT

Shortly after WWII mail moved in Africa between a bunch of small villages by a DC-3 without the pilot landing at every stop. the mail was is in a bucket on a rope that was put into a catcher on the ground where the local post master would remove the mail for his village and insert the outgoing mail. then the pilot would fly it to the next stop.

Slowburn
2nd September, 2014 @ 12:14 pm PDT
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