Wing in Texas: Wing’s planned DFW delivery service to take flight later this year
By Jim Magill
Wing, the subsidiary of Alphabet that has pioneered drone home delivery service in cities in Australia as well as Helsinki, Finland; and Christiansburg, Virginia, is planning to launch its service later this year in the densely populated Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex region in Texas.
In an interview, Wing spokesman Scott Coriell gave an update of the company’s plans, which will allow residents of the DFW area to order goods from a number of businesses and to have the products delivered directly to their homes via drone.
“Ordering is done through the Wing app,” Coriell said. “Customers pay for the goods and there is no delivery charge.”
Wing in Texas: Drone Delivery in Complex Urban Environments
Until now, most retail drone delivery services in the United States, including Wing’s operations in Virginia, have been concentrated in smaller towns, where land usage is less crowded and the airspace less complex. Wing hopes to leverage the lessons it has learned in its Christiansburg operations to be able to operate a highly automated drone delivery service in more crowded, complex operating environments such as DFW.
Wing’s strategy for locating its drones marks a major difference between its new DFW operating model and that of its Virginia operations. “In Virginia, we operate from a central Wing location, with businesses locating goods at that location. In DFW, we will be co-locating our drones with our business partners,” Coriell said.
In October, Wing announced it would partner with Walgreens, to deploy its vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) drones from Walgreens locations. In addition to Walgreens, Wing plans to locate a drone delivery facility in the 242-acre mixed-use development Frisco Station, in Frisco, Texas.
Coriell said Wing is working with a number of other businesses in the area, which can serve as locations for the company’s drone operations, and hopes to continue to add business partners after the launch of its DFW service.
“The aircraft will arrive in small containers that serve as tiny hangars, allowing each business to quickly and easily deploy a small, dedicated fleet from its parking lot, on its roof, or in small spaces adjacent to the building,” he said. “In Australia, we have been using this model for some time now, delivering goods from the roof of a local shopping plaza.”
Initially, the company will offer its delivery service in parts of the city of Frisco and town of Little Elm. “We intend to start small, listen to feedback from the community, and slowly grow over time based on the feedback we receive,” Coriell said. “We’ll start with a small handful of drones, and then scale up based on what we need to meet customer demand.”
VTOL aircraft operate in urban environments
The company’s specially built VTOL aircraft feature both fixed wings and hover propellers to allow the drones to seamlessly transition between helicopter and airplane modes, giving the aircraft the capability of taking off vertically, flying long distances at high speed and then hovering precisely to pick up or deliver a package.
In a typical delivery, personnel at the retail location will place ordered items into a specifically designed Wing box, which is then attached to the drone via a tether that secures into the belly of the drone. The autonomous drones map the safest route to a designated location using Wing’s Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system, which plans a flight path from take-off to landing.
Once it arrives at the customer’s destination, the aircraft hovers, descends to a delivery height of approximately 23 feet above ground, and then lowers the tether and automatically releases the package in the desired delivery area.
There is no need for the customer to unclip or assist with the delivery of the package. The drone then climbs back to cruise height and returns to its origination point.
Coriell declined to say how many drones the company would initially deploy, or whether it would directly employ drone pilots for the program or would instead contract with independent pilots.
From modest beginnings, the company hopes to ramp up its retail drone delivery program in the DFW area to the level it currently enjoys in Australia. Operating in the cities of Canberra and Logan, Wing has made more than 30,000 drone deliveries in the first two months of 2022 and had completed more than 100,000 drone deliveries in Australia last year.
Jim Magill is a Houston-based writer with almost a quarter-century of experience covering technical and economic developments in the oil and gas industry. After retiring in December 2019 as a senior editor with S&P Global Platts, Jim began writing about emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robots and drones, and the ways in which they’re contributing to our society. In addition to DroneLife, Jim is a contributor to Forbes.com and his work has appeared in the Houston Chronicle, U.S. News & World Report, and Unmanned Systems, a publication of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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