Google X, the highly secretive research arm of Google, has announced its latest project: autonomous delivery drones. Wait, haven’t we heard this one before? Yes, yes we have. But unlike the fragile-looking Octocopter delivery drone Amazon promised would be part of our future last year, Google’s “Project Wing” drones actually look like they’re up to the task of doing day-to-day autonomous deliveries over sustained period of time.
Google has also been able to give a much more viable demonstration of how its delivery system would work, thanks to its to decision to partner with Phil Swinsburg of Unmanned Systems Australia and to do its tests in Australia, where drone regulations are a little more relaxed than they are in the US.
According to Nick Roy, the MIT Robotocist who took a two year sabatical to work on the project, Sergey Brin has a strong interest in the project and persistently asks for updates.
Roy has since returned to MIT, but it seems he’s left the project on a good footing.
Replacing Roy is Dave Vos, who’s been automating flying machines for a decade now and sold his drone software company, Athena Technologies, to Rockwell in 2008.
“Self-flying vehicles could open up entirely new approaches to moving things around—including options that are faster, cheaper, less wasteful, and more environmentally sensitive than the way we do things today,” a Google spokesperson said in an email to WIRED.
While the drone shown off in the video looks impressive, Google is pretty tight-lipped about what eventual direction it might take:
“The vehicle you see in our video is more a research vehicle than an indication of a final decision or direction—as we figure out exactly what our service will deliver and where and why, we will look at a variety of vehicle options (both home-made and off-the-shelf),” the Google spokesperson told Wired.