Five years ago, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos predicted that by now we would all be getting packages delivered by drones. Despite numerous trials and pilotsaround the globe, we’re still waiting. Meanwhile other companies have been nipping at Amazon’s heels, including Google’s parent company Alphabet. Its Project X drones started delivering burritos to customers in Australia’s Capital Territory last year, and has now announced that folks in Finland can look forward to package deliveries by air from early 2019.
Alphabet’s autonomous delivery drone effort – Project Wing – has been dropping food, drinks, medicine and household items off to customers in south-eastern Australia for the last 18 months or so, and emerged from the company’s X moonshot factory in July to become a fully fledged Alphabet company. Wing says that tests in Australia have shown delivery by drone to have a carbon footprint that’s 22 times lower than traditional delivery methods.
When spring arrives in Finland next year, there will be an Alphabet-flavored buzz in the air. Drone deliveries will start in the Helsinki area as a small service trial. Customers will use a companion mobile app to schedule a delivery, the package will be picked up from the business, flown to a designated destination and then gently lowered to the ground for pickup.
Each drone has a 1 meter (3.3 ft) wingspan and weighs about 5 kg (11 lb), and is reported capable of carrying cargo up to 1.5 kg (3.3 lb). Wing says that though they’ll likely be heard as they fly overhead, the drones used in the Finland trial are the company’s quietest so far. Round trip range is given as about 20 km (12 mi) and the Finnish climate will offer a unique proving ground for the system.
“Based on what we know about the winter weather in Finland, we’re pretty confident that if our drones can deliver here, they can deliver anywhere,” quips Wing’s Finland intro page.
Exactly what will be flown out using the service is still under consideration, with Wing currently asking Finns to complete an online survey to help identify where the service would be of most use. The company hopes to expand the service beyond Helsinki as the project progresses.