BRISBANE – Google has admitted it has been using a property in Queensland as a secret testing ground for a prototype drone delivery system that it hopes will revolutionise its position in the retail marketplace. The news comes after US flight authorities refused Amazon.com permission to trial drone deliveries in the USA.Google says its Project Wing has been successfully tested in Queensland, with a Warwick farmer the first to place an order – for dog food and chocolate, successfully delivered.
The project was developed by Google X: its R&D centre was owned by the search engine giant. It has taken two years to get to test phase, which the developers chose to carry out on the Darling Downs in Queensland.
Google has posted a video of the airborne delivery. Local landowner Neil Parfitt placed an order for dog food and some chocolate bars to test out the drone system.
“Once I got the delivery they said, ‘Neil, do you realise you’re the first person in the world that our project has actually delivered a parcel to?’ ” he said. The drop, filmed for YouTube, showed the drone fly to Parfitt’s farm, hover about 20 metres above ground, and lower the parcel to earth via a cable.
“Then it [the cable] went back into the drone and it took off back to the base. It all happened in a minute or two,” Parfitt said.
The drone had a metre or so wingspan with four propellers, and was battery operated.
Parfitt said the service could open the door to advancements with the way medical aid and emergency relief were delivered.”I was thinking of one with a snake bite, when they need an anti-venom and they need to get the anti-venom to them quickly,” he said.
Last month, rival Amazon unsuccessfully sought permission for drone test flights in the USA, saying it is moving forward on plans for deliveries using unmanned aircraft.
Google hopes to eventually create a service with multiple unmanned vehicles flying daily deliveries throughout the US and overseas.
The drones, if legalised, would revolutionise e-tailing, allowing an online order be delivered within minutes, and reduce reliance on Australia Post and other delivery services.
Google are eyeing the drones for both small and larger sized packages and successfully delivered a first aid kit, candy bars, dog treats, and water to a couple of Australian farmers.
But its not just retail. Google X director Astro Teller said drones could also be used in other situations including an emergency response after a flood or other natural disaster to deliver medicine or supplies to people in need.
However, this is the first Google drone prototype and is years from being fully developed, admits Nicholas Roy, Project Wing Founder.