Wing Aviation, a start-up by Alphabet (Google’s parent company), is the first and only company worldwide that has received governmental approval to carry out commercial deliveries by drones.
Under the current regulations, drones are supposed to be flown only in the operator’s line of sight. To be able to fulfil deliveries as envisioned by the drone company, Wing Aviation needed to be recognised as an airline - fulfilling similar standards such as creating safety manuals, training routines and safety hierarchy.
The US Federal Aviation Administration granted approval in Virginia after the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority allowed deliveries by drones in Canberra in early April. Wing Aviation already announced plans for Finland.
Beyond quicker and more cost-efficient deliveries, what are the implications of drone delivery? How will they impact on consumer purchasing patterns and volumes? Will they enable us to minimise packaging or food waste, or to make significant fuel savings?
There is also the question of whether they will prove cost and energy-efficient.
During a test run over 18 months in Australia complaints about the unbearable high-pitched buzzing of the drones were raised. According to a NASA study, the noise created by the drones is more annoying than constant road traffic.
This could lead to limited operation hours during daylight in Canberra and a small geographical scope in the suburbs of the city - meaning local businesses would not profit from the quick and easy delivery solution for dinner deliveries. In Virginia USA, deliveries are only allowed in rural areas.
To counter worries about drones falling from the sky due to losing battery or colliding with other aircraft, drones are not supposed to fly over major streets and need to keep a certain distance to people on the ground. Is this really going to make deliveries more efficient?
Are drones going to be more energy efficient than traditional means of transportation? According to research by Nature Communication, the efficiency of drones depends highly on the region where the recipients live and other various factors.
So might deliveries carried out by drones might just be efficient for the companies using the new technology?