Drone delivery services in the United States inched closer to reality, as the United States government, through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has allowed Google's parent company, Alphabet, to conduct tests for Project Wing.
The tests will be conducted by Alphabet at one of the six approved drone testing sites of the FAA, with the goal of the study being the integration of large-scale delivery services using drones into commercial airspace.
The grant of approval for Project Wing testing in the United States comes as part of several initiatives rolled out by the White House on increasing the usage of drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs, by businesses in the country.
Among the key actions announced by the United States are $35 million worth of research funding to be provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for drone research and applications, the usage of drones by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) for search and rescue operations and the improvement of government processes, and a $5 million investment by New York to support the growing drone industry in the state.
For Project Wing's testing, Alphabet, through its Google X research division, will fly cargo-carrying drones beyond the line of sight of their human operators, a kind of test that companies are required to file a petition first to the government before carrying out.
The drones that will be used will be equipped with tiny radio transponders which would identify their location to other aircraft and to their controllers. According to Project Wing head Dave Vos, these transponders must be installed to all the traditional aircraft flying in the United States by 2020, and with aircraft and other drones equipped with these devices, the drones will be able to fly in congested areas without crashing into one another.
According to the White House, the data that Alphabet will acquire from its testing of Project Wing will be shared with government partners in a bid to answer questions on safety and human factors related to drone delivery services.
The planned testing will be the most significant trials to date in the United States for drone delivery services, and is a major step toward establishing such a service in the country.
Amazon, another company that is developing a drone delivery service, was able to team up with the government of the United Kingdom to expand its testing in the country, in a similar set-up that Alphabet was able to acquire approval for from the United States government.