Wing Introduces Rideshare-Style Drone Delivery Network | Engadget

Sharing rides is convenient in part because there’s often a vehicle near you, and Alphabet’s Wing wants to extend that advantage to drone delivery. The company is introducing a Wing Delivery Network platform that is based on highly automated, decentralized pickups. The drones load and deliver wherever it makes the most sense for the overall system. If demand increases in a certain area, more drones can operate around the closest platforms.

Fundamentally, your local restaurant or store doesn’t have to do much to take advantage of the network. An AutoLoader system allows stores to simply drop a package at a curbside pickup location and drive away; the drone takes care of the rest. Companies have to order drones, but they don’t have to manage the fleet or make employees wait for a plane to arrive.

The technology is also meant to scale gracefully. It’s relatively easy to add new rig locations as usage grows, and drones can function as scouts that expand the network. Drones can even ensure that they are allowed to fly in a certain area.

Wing expects Delivery Network “elements” to roll out over the next year, with demos around the world in 2023. As long as all goes to plan, the brand wants to handle “millions” of deliveries by mid-2024, at prices that exceed conventional ground delivery.

There are catches. Drone regulations are not always set up to handle autonomous deliveries, let alone decentralized systems. Amazon’s Prime Air drones have made few deliveries precisely because of regulatory requirements. Similarly, there is no guarantee that companies will be willing to invest in drones and adapt their curbside pickup spaces. However, Wing’s approach is markedly different from that seen with other networks, and its combination of lightweight drones and careful deliveries (Amazon’s heavy-duty drones have to drop packages from 12 feet high) may make it more appealing to both officials as for stores.

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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