Alphabet subsidiary Wing is pulling the curtain back on how it plans to cater to different industries that may come knocking on its door looking for on-demand drone delivery.
“We can have tiny planes for pharmaceutical delivery, big planes for shipping fulfillment, long-range aircraft for logistic flights, and dedicated hovering platforms for delivery in cities,” Adam Woodworth, Wing’s new CEO, explained in a blog post that talks about how the drone delivery company is building an “aircraft library.”
The key criteria for Wing’s aircraft remain the same: cargo should be about 25 percent of the plane’s mass. Moving away from that ratio means more cost, more energy, and more materials being expended to deliver a product.
“Cars, which perform most of today’s on-demand deliveries, are the ultimate example of this mismatch, where the stuff being carried represents less than 0.1 percent of the mass of the vehicle,” Woodworth points out.
The basics are already in place. Wing has developed a core set of hardware and software components that can be used to create a variety of different vehicles tailored for specific use cases. And who knows it better than Woodworth, who spent years overseeing the product, technology, and engineering divisions at the organization before former CEO James Ryan Burgess passed on the baton to him.
“[Our] efforts focus on solving the hard problems first, prototyping the design for later use. In some cases, we’re addressing a particular challenging aerodynamics riddle, and in others a packaging puzzle of how to integrate a big box into a not-so-big plane. Since these concept designs are intended to leverage the core elements from our operational system, we can focus the new design work on a shorter list of new and unique tasks, knowing that the brain of the system remains the same,” Woodworth said.
So now, when a new partner or operational need arises, the team can go into the aircraft library, take an article off the shelf, take it through the rest of the development and testing process, and start delivering what people need.
Currently, Wing’s drones operate in three countries: the US, Finland, and Australia.