Google Drone Aims For The Skies With 'Project Wing' Research Program

  @lukeydukeyl.villapaz@ibtimes.com on August 29 2014 9:42 AM
Google Drone "Project Wing"
Google's "Project Wing" drone program has been in the works for two years. Google

Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) isn’t the only major name looking to strike it big with drone deliveries.

Following two years of secret research, Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Thursday lifted the veil on its experimental drone program, which aims to make autonomous drone deliveries a reality. Dubbed “Project Wing,” the project led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology robotics professor Nicholas Roy reportedly has dozens of Google employees working on improved designs and apps through its research arm, Google X.

Google’s drone, which was featured in a video published on YouTube on Thursday, uses a hybrid design -- taking characteristics of a plane and helicopter -- which allows it to take off vertically and then reorient itself for horizontal flight. To deliver packages, the drone simply hovers over its delivery location, while dropping a package attached to a winch. Once the drone detects the package hitting the ground, the end of the winch detaches and the drone continues its flight.

It sounds like an innovative way to make drone deliveries a reality. To test the drones, Google ventured out to Australia, where regulations on flying unmanned aircraft and drones are much looser.

“The goal of being [in Australia] is to show that the hard work over the last two years has resulted in a reliable system that can do autonomous delivery," Roy, Project Wing's founder, said.

Hopes for flying the drones in the U.S. could by dashed by the Federal Aviation Administration, which hasn't been as receptive to commercial flights involving drone deliveries.

While Amazon introduced its own drone delivery prototype in December, FAA regulations have prohibited commercial drone usage since 2007. But that may change in the future as the FAA works to establish rules for commercial drone operations.

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