San Francisco (AFP)
Wing, Alphabet's subsidiary (Google), will deliver commercial products and parcels by drone to residents of Christianburg (Virginia, Eastern USA), a step further in the still-nascent market, but already hotly contested, air delivery networks.
Beginning in October, eligible residents enrolled in this pilot program will be able to order over-the-counter medications or food, and a drone will deliver it on their doorstep 5 to 10 minutes later.
"We're very excited about being able to deliver products as soon as someone needs them, no matter where they are," said James Burgess, Executive Director of Wing, who has partnered with two partners, FedEx Express (transport and logistics) and Walgreens (pharmacies and parapharmacies).
The 4.5-kilo yellow and white drones will be able to carry specially designed packages weighing up to 1.3 kilos within 10 km.
Once arrived at their destination, they will stay 7 meters above the ground to drop their parcels in the garden or in front of the door of the customers, thanks to a cord connected to a mini-winch.
"We've spent a number of years improving the security of the system, and if the cord hangs on something or someone catches it, for example, the device senses the tension on the line and detaches it so it does not stay. get stuck and just go home, "says James Burgess, who also assures that small robots are less noisy than cars or trucks.
With a cruising speed of 120 km / h, Wing also promises to deliver ice cream before it has time to melt, even in summer.
- The way to go -
Many companies are experimenting with drone delivery, from Amazon Air (a subsidiary of online retail giant Amazon), to Uber Eats (Uber's meal delivery hub), and start-ups like Flirty.
Wing became the first company in April to receive the green light from the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) to deliver commercial goods to recipients who may be miles away.
"We still have some way to go before it becomes the norm in our transportation networks," said James Burgess.
"There is a lot of concern around these technologies, and understandably (...) This kind of pilot program allows us to collect feedback from customers, residents and authorities on the best way to proceed to use this technology more widely. "
The UPS Logistics Group filed a request with the FAA this summer to launch an extensive network of commercial UAVs in the United States. If this request is approved, it could then start operating drones on populated areas and at night only.
In June, Uber received approval from the authorities to test drone meal deliveries in the San Diego region of southern California.
But this experiment does not reach the customer: the drones go to secure areas, where a delivery man Uber Eats recovers the cheeseburger or sushi to bring them to the customer.
- potential -
In Africa, drones have been proven in several countries to deliver medical products in rural clinics.
The first blood bags and medicines were delivered by the air in 2016 in Rwanda, whose villages are also very isolated. And Zipline, a US company, signed a $ 12.5 million four-year contract with Ghana in the spring.
In the United States, it is above all for companies to conquer a market with high potential: fast, secure, door-to-door deliveries, more and more automated.
"If delivery by drone becomes the norm, with this pilot, Walgreens will be very well positioned to capitalize on its convenience, because 78% of the US population lives within 8 km of one of our stores", s is congratulated Vish Sankaran, Director of Innovation at Walgreens Boots Alliance.
Wing has been experimenting in Australia for several years. In 2014, for the first time, the company managed to deliver basic necessities, sweets, dog food and water to farmers.
A few months ago, the Alphabet subsidiary launched a service similar to that of Christianburg in some suburbs of Canberra, in partnership with coffee shops and pharmacies, and following strict rules: no overflight of the main roads, and day deliveries only.
© 2019 AFP