Two of the biggest names in the tech industry, Google and Amazon, have begun conducting drone tests on completely automated drone delivery services. Google will start testing its Project Wing delivery drones in the US after being granted approval by the US government. At the same time, Amazon will test the technology of its Prime Air drone delivery service with the help of the Government in the UK.
Prime Air and Project Wing Ready for Take-off
Many readers will have already heard of the news of Amazon’s Prime Air drone delivery service. However, one of the biggest tech companies on the planet, Google, has also taken a step into this field. Project Wing is Google’s answer to drone delivery and it is already promising to be a revolution.
The company claims its drones “ will fly five miles in five minutes.” That comes to a speed of 60 mph, which is currently quite swift for a drone.
Unlike many other drones, which are designed in the form of multiple rotors, the drones from Project Wing resemble a fixed wing aircraft. It is essentially a mini jet.
The drones are going to be tested in one of six designated US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) areas. This is part of the US government’s initiative to promote research into unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.
The release of regulations governing commercial drones will significantly aid Google’s vision of delivering products with the machines.
The US National Science Foundation intends to spend $35 million over the course of the next five years on commercial drone research. This announcement was made just one month after the US government approved of commercial drone flights, but there is a catch. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has imposed some restrictions and limitations on line-of-sight control. For obvious reasons this is a hindrance for completely automated drone delivery services.
Amazon takes tests to Europe
Amazon would have faced the same problem if they had partnered with the US government. The American firm decided to take their collaboration across the pond. They are collaborating with the UK government to test its Prime Air service, which the company touts as being “the first automatic drone delivery service not requiring line-of-sight.”
By collaborating with the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Amazon now has permission to research beyond-line-of-sight operations in rural and suburban regions, something that the FAA would surely not approve of. Amazon will test flights where a single person will monitor and control multiple autonomous drones as well as experiment with the sensing technologies.
According to Paul Misener, Amazon’s Vice President of Global Innovation Policy and Communications, “The UK is a leader in enabling drone innovation. We have been investing in Prime Air technologies in this country since the very beginning.
This announcement strengthens our partnership with the UK and brings us closer to realizing our goal of drones safely delivering parcels in to customers anywhere in the world in a short amount of time.” Unlike the FAA, the CAA is very willing to allow commercial drone usage.
The FAA regulations and policies do not allow for automated drone delivery service, as it does not comply with its necessity of having line-of-sight operations. The recently released regulations go a long way in improving the situation, but much more needs to be done still.
The entire basis of Amazon’s Prime Air delivery service is not having line-of-sight operations. Hence, it cannot operate under those conditions, so the company had to look elsewhere in other countries to test its technologies.
In addition to Amazon’s Prime Air division having a base of operations in the UK, they also have testing sites in other countries as well. The company is conducting trials in the Netherlands and Canada, where the regulations and policies are not as strict as they are in the US.
UK Support for Drone Innovation
The UK is a very progressive nation when it comes to testing autonomous drone technology. Amazon is current testing devices that weigh less than 25 kg, fly under 400 feet, travel over 50 mph, and can operate beyond line-of-sight of 10 miles.
Daniel Buchmueller, co-founder of Amazon’s drone program said, “We are committed to realizing our mission for Prime Air. We will not launch until we can demonstrate entirely safe operations.”
On the other hand, the US seems to be very hesitant to allow commercial drone usage. While there are many individuals, mainly vloggers, using drones public drones, commercial drones are out of the question based on the current policies. Rules and regulations governing the control and flight of drones have impeded drone development and progress.
Sources from the White House said that Project Wing is planning for the test experiments to incorporate operations with external cargo loads and to build towards beyond line-of-sight functionality. The US is very skeptical and raises the issue that these delivery drones, flying as high as 400 feet, could come into contact with other flying vehicles as they take off and land.
Dave Vos, head of Project Wing, said that there should not be any concern of the Google drones crashing or colliding with any other flying object. With Google being one of the leading tech firms, they have the technology to ensure that such an incident will not happen. “The way I think about these issues, I do not think about the problems,” said Dave Vos. “I think about the solutions that we can bring to bear.”
Google and Amazon are employing different techniques and taking help from different governments to launch their drone delivery service, changing the way goods will soon be delivered. Customers will be able to receive their products in a fraction of the time it would normally take with human delivery.
For more updates on Google’s Project Wing and Amazon’s Prime Air, stay tuned to UAV Systems for more news.
What do you make of Google’ and Amazon’s autonomous drone delivery tests. Do you see this as a technology that will be widely used and common in the future? – Share your thoughts with other drone professionals and enthusiasts in the comments section below!