An experimental service from drone delivery company Wing in Virginia is humming along. The company says that its volume of deliveries has more than doubled since the service began on October 18. Wing hasn’t disclosed the total number of deliveries, but the growth is a positive sign.
At launch, Wing delivery customers in Christiansburg in western Virginia had three choices:
- Order select products from Walgreens pharmacy
- Order from local retailer Sugar Magnolia
- Schedule delivery through FedEx
Now Wing has added two more local businesses. The Mockingbird café offers pastries, and Brugh Coffee offers beans and cold brew coffee for autonomous delivery using drones.
A social distancing option
Wing also expanded the number of pharmacy items that can be delivered in response to COVID-19 and the need for distancing options.
“We believe that our technology at this point in time can be really beneficial, because the technology doesn’t rely on any human-to-human contact,” Wing spokeswoman Alexa Dennett told NBC News affiliate WSLS.
Owned by Google parent company Alphabet, Wing became the first company to operate consumer drone deliveries in the US. It was also the first drone operator recognized as an air carrier under the FAA’s Part 135 certification. In essence, Wing became the first drone airline in the US.
UPS has since gained Part 135 certification as well. The delivery company’s drone subsidiary UPS Flight Forward is currently focused on delivering medical samples on hospital campuses.
Not a copter
True to its name, Wing operates fixed-wing aircraft, which can operate more efficiently than copter-style drones. They travel up to six miles in six minutes for deliveries. However, Wing’s drones can achieve vertical take-off and landing (VTOL).
A separate set of rotors allows the drones to rise and descend vertically, eliminating the need for a runway. They can also hover, allowing the drones to lower cargo to the ground at a customer’s home.
In addition to its Virginia trials, Wing also makes deliveries in Canberra and Logan in Australia and in Helsinki, Finland.
Meanwhile, Irish drone operator Manna Aero is set to begin its first consumer deliveries this month in the central Irish town of Moneygall. Getting drone delivery off the ground has been a slow process with a lot of regulatory red tape, but it looks as if drone delivery is finally becoming a reality around the world.