Google parent company Alphabet is one step closer to realizing its promise of having drones deliver all the dumb stuff you order online right to your doorstep. CNet reports that the company was granted permission by the White House to begin testing unmanned aerial vehicle deliveries as part of a larger plan to stimulate drone development in the US.
Alphabet's aerial drones, showcased delivering dog food and candy late last year to an Australian farmer, will first be deployed at six US test sites before hitting public skies. Project Wing, as the Alphabet program is called, will work closely with the government in the initial testing phase.
"Data gathered will be shared with government partners to help regulators answer critical safety and human factors questions for UAV cargo delivery operations," reads the White House press release announcing the plans. "Project Wing is planning for the testing to include operations with external cargo loads and to build towards beyond line of sight (BLOS) capabilities."
Alphabet, of course, is not the only major player in the drone game. Amazon has been testing delivery drones for years, and unveiled a functioning prototype last November. (There's also those guys promising to drone deliver you weed in Dolores Park, but we're not holding our breath on that one.)
The government's partnership with Project Wing is just one part of a larger plan to spur a US drone industry — an industry that officials expect to generate $82 billion over the next ten years for the economy. Other actions announced yesterday include $35 million in funding for the National Science Foundation "to accelerate the understanding of how to intelligently and effectively design, control, and apply [unmanned aircraft systems] to beneficial applications."
This move comes less than two months after the White House announced new rules governing drones in US airspace, and is likely to be the first of many major private/public partnerships in the effort to deploy drone technology.
So, when should we start to see Alphabet-branded drones flying over San Francisco? If the chief engineer for Project Wing is to be believed, sooner than you may think. "Our goal is to have commercial business up and running in 2017," Dave Vos told Reuters late last year.
Until that time, however, you'll just have to have your drone deliveries take place the old fashioned, terrestrial way.