A startup owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet has just secured approval for one of the first ever drone delivery services.
Wing, which graduated to become its own company under the Alphabet brand last year, will launch its first commercial delivery service in Canberra, Australia.
The company confirmed the move in a blog on Tuesday after it secured approval from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) following a successful trial. A CASA spokesman confirmed to Business Insider that it had approved the delivery service and said it is “very likely” to be a world first.
Other firms have claimed to have launched the world’s first commercial drone delivery service. This includes Flytrex, which launched a service in Iceland in 2017 in partnership with AHA, the country’s biggest online retailer.
Wing has been piloting the Canberra project for around 18 months, completing 3,000 deliveries. On its official launch, the service will be available to a confined number of homes in the Canberra area, before gradually expanding. CASA said 100 homes will be eligible initially.
Wing allows users to place orders through an app. Delivery is then made by drone within minutes, according to the company. Popular delivery items include fresh food, coffee, ice cream, and medicine. Below is a video of a coffee firm, named Kickstart Expresso, which took advantage of the trial.
“The feedback we have received during the trials has been valuable, helping us to refine our operations to better meet the needs and expectations of the communities in which we operate,” Wing said in its blog. “We will continue to engage with the local community and stakeholders as we expand our service.”
The trial completed without a safety incident, but it was not without drawbacks. Australia’s ABC News reported that some Canberra locals were driven to tears by the noise of the drones. “With the windows closed, even with double glazing, you can hear the drones,” one local said.
The CASA spokesman told Business Insider that the Wing service will be subject to a number of conditions to guarantee safety. The conditions include:
Drones will be able to fly over streets and homes, but not over “main arterial roads.”
Drones can fly five metres above people and two metres horizontally from people when making deliveries.
Flights are not allowed before 7 a.m. between Monday and Saturday, and 8 a.m. on a Sunday.
Those eligible for deliveries will receive a safety briefing about not approaching the drones.
“Wing has already conducted thousands of drone deliveries in Canberra with approval from CASA. Safety data from these trials were carefully assessed by CASA before approval was given for the operations in North Canberra,” the CASA spokesman added.
Wing’s launch in Australia means it has beaten Amazon to the punch. Jeff Bezos said its commercial drone delivery service would be available to the public in 2018, but despite testing, it is not yet ready.
Wing is also targeting Europe. The company has been piloting its devices in Helsinki, Finland, since December last year. It chose Finland as a testing ground because the Finnish people are “renowned for being early-adopters of new technologies.”