Google X’s “Project Wing” delivery drone project performed a seemingly successful test flight yesterday. Sequoia Capital’s Aaref Hilaly (@aaref) tweeted “Watching baby steps of drone delivery, courtesy of Google X (5 miles in 5 mins is the promise)” and included a video of the test flight.
The test follows Dronelife’s earlier announcement that Google had registered two new drone designs with the FAA, after an earlier, fixed-wing design proved unstable. The new design looks like a more familiar quad-copter type, and the video shows a smooth drop of a package to the ground.
Neither Google’s Project Wing nor Amazon’s much-hyped Prime Air is the first delivery drone to hit the skies. In July, Australian start-up Flirtey successfully performed the first FAA-approved drone delivery, providing a load of medical supplies to a remote West Virginian clinic as part of a research project involving the FAA, NASA, and Virginia Tech. Since then, other commercial drone delivery projects have been frozen by FAA regulation problems.
In February, Amazon sent a letter to the FAA in protest against proposed rules, stating that “Overly prescriptive restrictions are likely to have the unintended effect of stifling innovation.” In July, Amazon’s Paul Misener, vice president of global public policy for Amazon.com, testified before the lawmakers about drone delivery. “If a consumer wants a small item quickly, instead of driving to go shopping or causing delivery automobiles to come to her home or office, a small, electrically-powered (drone) vehicle will make the trip faster and more efficiently and cleanly,” Misener told the House Oversight Committee.
Despite the efforts of Google, Amazon, and other stakeholders, the FAA regulations requiring commercial drones to be within sight of their operators and prohibiting commercial cargo would seem to preclude any possibility of drone delivery at the current time.