Drones were the hottest Christmas gifts this past holiday season, but will you soon be getting your Christmas gifts delivered by a drone? That's the idea, and there are a number of different companies already out there trying to be the first to commercialize autonomous robots and drone delivery. Amazon made a splash last year with its announcement of a drone delivery system that will be a part of its Amazon Prime Air program. Skype also has gotten into the market with the "Starship" project, which is apparently an autonomous self-driving robot that can deliver up to twenty pounds of groceries at a fraction of the cost. It plans to debut in Britain later this year.
Google-turned Alphabet's Project Wing is the tech giant's foray into the drone delivery business. Alphabet released a video in January that hinted at what Project Wing might be able to do. In its 2014 patent filing, Alphabet had developed a system where mobile delivery drones and on-the-ground "mobile delivery receptacles" would together to get a package delivered safety to a "safe place" like a garage or behind the bush of a residency. In a YouTube video released in January, you could see a drone with a single-winged design that gently lowered packages to the ground with a winch.
In April, Alphabet released a new YouTube video that featured a few major changes to the design of the planned drone. First and foremost, it lost the wing in favor of a quadropter design that had been used by other companies who are trying to make drone delivery a feasible service. Instead of the small pouch that would winch the package to the ground, the newly designed drone would take off and land to successfully deliver a package. Besides that, little is known about Project Wing except that it still is supposed to be launched in early 2017.
Although the newest video did answer some questions, many more are left to be answered. How does Alphabet plan to address safety? What will it do about urban areas where the drones may need to avoid obstacles like skyscrapers? What will be the power source for the drones? Will it use power connectors, batteries or some other source? Only time will tell if Alphabet is able to solve the many issues that have delayed drone delivery from coming to market at this point.