Google tests drone deliveries in rural Queensland

By on 9 September, 2014

Google Project Wing delivery

Google has recently announced its ‘Project Wing’ – a prototype UAV, aka drone, delivery system.

After two years of secret design and simulations, the Google X development team – which is also behind Google’s self-driving cars – brought Project Wing prototypes to Australia for a comprehensive series of tests at a farm near Warwick in rural SE Queensland.

Interestingly, the reason the project was tested in Australia is because the US has tighter restrictions on commercial UAV operators, so Google would have had to apply for approval, or else conduct all tests on a government test-site.

Full-scale testing of the delivery drones were carried on Neil Parfitt’s farm near Warwick, Queensland. During the test flight shown in the video linked below, Parfitt’s dog also gets treated with a UAV delivery of dog food from Roy, who is located at a neighbouring property. Delivery of cattle vaccines, first aid and even other light weight deliverables such as a Cherry Ripe have also been experimented with.

“We’re only just beginning to develop the technology to make a safe delivery system possible, but we think that there’s tremendous potential to transport goods more quickly, safely and efficiently,” Google wrote on YouTube. Other delivery possibilities include aid in disaster areas, or urgent medical supplies.

For these Queensland tests, Google used a ‘tail sitter’ style UAV, which is a hybrid of plane and helicopter that takes off vertically, then rotates to a horizontal position for flying around.

As seen in the video, the deliveries are made while it hovers and winches down the package. At the end of the tether, there’s a little bundle of electronics they call the “egg,” which detects that the package has hit the ground, detaches from the delivery, and is pulled back up into the body of the vehicle.

These tests come after Amazon has shown interest in using drones for deliveries, too. The biggest single obstacle in the drone delivery space will be regulation, not technology, however.

You can watch a video of the drone delivery test of Project Wing on YouTube.

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