Google tests delivery drones

Google’s secret research department, Google X, has built and tested autonomous aerial drones as part of a long term plan to offer speedy deliveries to remote areas and disaster zones, the company revealed.

The project, entitled Project Wing, has been running for two years but was not revealed by the company until now.  According to Google, the self-flying machines could be used after earthquakes, floods, or extreme weather events, to take small items such as medicines or batteries to people in areas that conventional vehicles cannot reach.

The idea was originally conceived as a way to deliver defibrillator kits to people suspected to be having heart attacks quicker than an ambulance would reach them.

The prototype drones have been tested successfully in Queensland, Australia – and were set up to deliver packages to remote farms in the area. Australia‘s progressive rules regarding the use of drones, which are laxer than those of other countries, led to Google’s decision to test the machines down under.

Unlike some military controlled drones which are often controlled remotely by a pilot on the ground, Project Wing’s vehicles are programmed with a destination and are then able to fly there automatically.

The protoypes have a wingspan of approximately 1.5m (4.9ft) and four electrically-driven propellers. They weigh approximately 8.5kg (18.7lb) and around 10kg with a package attached.

The drones can take off or land without a runway, and can hold their position hovering in one spot. They can also fly quickly and efficiently, allowing them to cover large distances.

“Even just a few of these, being able to shuttle nearly continuously could service a very large number of people in an emergency situation,” explained Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots – Google X’s name for big-thinking projects.

The company said the machines may be used in the future to deliver items bought online to consumers. This follows online retailer Amazon’s announcement of a similar drone delivery service last year.

Source: BBC News


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