Amazon isn’t the only company working on drone delivery, Google’s Project Wing aims to beat the retailer to the punch with a drone that will fly five miles in five minutes.
The drone has changed quite a lot since its initial unveiling, looking like a big fixed wing aircraft with propellers lining its edge. The design added flying speed, but was eventually deemed unfeasible for delivery operations. The latest test drone takes a more conventional quadcopter shape with added aerofoils.
The test, captured on video by Sequoia Capital venture capitalist Aaref Hilaly, shows the drone hovering and lowering a package to the floor, and comes as the US starts to enforce the registration of public drones.
Google and Amazon are in a race to push drone delivery out of the science fiction books and into reality, but they are by no means the only players in the race.
Australian drone manufacturer Flirtey partnered with Nasa in a US Federal Aviation Authority public trial of the delivery of medicine via drone in July, marking the first display of successful delivery by drone in the US.
But rules and regulations governing the control and flight of drones have held back development. An increase in the number of affordable drones on the market has seen rapid adoption by the public with little to no guidance or regulation.
Near misses with aircraft and safety incidents have made legislators twitchy, leading the US down the path of registration of consumer drones.
“Finding the drone has not been as much of a problem as finding the person who was using the drone,” said US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx.
Drone flights are highly restricted in the UK, where current legislation dictates that the aircraft cannot be flown within 50m of a building or a person – or within 150m of any built-up area.
The maximum flight height is also only 122m (400 ft), and the drone must remain within line of sight and less than 500m from the pilot. Commercial drone pilots must complete a training course and apply for a permit from the Civil Aviation Authority. The restrictions, which the CAA says are made on safety grounds, effectively prevent deliveries by drone even if they were to become technically trivial to perform.
By Samuel Gibbs