15 votes

Alphabet’s drone delivery service Wing hits 100,000 deliveries milestone

14 comments

  1. [8]
    deknalis
    Link
    Ugh, I can only hope this doesn't take off (pun intended). The noise of a drone alone is unbearable, let alone the idea of private companies regularly using the airspace of private properties for...

    Ugh, I can only hope this doesn't take off (pun intended). The noise of a drone alone is unbearable, let alone the idea of private companies regularly using the airspace of private properties for profit.

    Get off my lawn.

    7 votes
    1. [7]
      nerb
      Link Parent
      I'm not worried. Now that it's hit a milestone of some sort Google will get bored and launch a disruptive competing drone delivery program from another division and then in 3 years they'll both...

      I'm not worried. Now that it's hit a milestone of some sort Google will get bored and launch a disruptive competing drone delivery program from another division and then in 3 years they'll both show up on https://killedbygoogle.com/

      8 votes
      1. [6]
        Akir
        Link Parent
        To be honest, I'm more than a little amazed that anyone's working on drone delivery services at all. The reason why delivery services like UPS and the post office are so affordable is because they...

        To be honest, I'm more than a little amazed that anyone's working on drone delivery services at all. The reason why delivery services like UPS and the post office are so affordable is because they run complex logistics in order to batch things together in the most efficient way possible. Drones not only have extremely limited cargo space (I'm not sure about Wing, but most of the schemes I have seen have been for drones to carry individual packages), and they travel with the single least energy efficient form of motion there is - flight. How do they expect to be competitive?

        5 votes
        1. [3]
          hungariantoast
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          I could imagine in the future it'll be possible to build larger drones that can carry and deliver multiple packages, maybe even eventually up to or exceeding the capacity of something like an...

          I could imagine in the future it'll be possible to build larger drones that can carry and deliver multiple packages, maybe even eventually up to or exceeding the capacity of something like an Amazon van. That feels like something we might see in a decade or two though.

          As for flight versus driving, yeah, I feel like electric delivery vans or trucks would consume less electricity than a fleet of drones. I'd be interested in reading someone's conclusion if they (could) do the math.

          The only advantage I can think of for drones versus what we have now might just be that they can fly instead of driving on roads. They might eventually be, by far, the fastest way to get a package to someone, both cross-country and last-mile.

          Overall though I kind of hate the idea of having at least a dozen drones crossing over every small American town, every day. How would you limit noise pollution? How would it affect wildlife?

          What happens to activities like paramotoring? Right now you can fly around just about anywhere in the US with minimal regulation. What happens to that when the sky is filled with ultra-capital-company-number-ten's fleet of delivery drones?

          5 votes
          1. [2]
            imperialismus
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Now we're in flying cars territory! I think this technology will exist within this decade, but I don't think it's going to be common inside cities because, well, flying cars. Boeing's Cargo Air...

            I could imagine in the future it'll be possible to build larger drones that can carry and deliver multiple packages, maybe even eventually up to or exceeding the capacity of something like an Amazon van. That feels like something we might see in a decade or two though.

            Now we're in flying cars territory! I think this technology will exist within this decade, but I don't think it's going to be common inside cities because, well, flying cars. Boeing's Cargo Air Vehicle looks like what you picture when you hear the word "drone", just scaled up massively. It's six meters wide, has twelve rotors, weighs 450 kg (about half of what the lightest ordinary road cars weigh in at) and is designed to take a payload of up to 225kg. Even though it looks nothing like a Blade Runner flying car, functionally it's big and heavy enough that it's going to deal with the same issues. How do you regulate that? How do you deal with the safety issues, the noise pollution, the traffic logistics and right of way in low urban airspaces?

            I think the technology will get there long before the legalities are worked out. We might have drone "cargo trucks" by 2031 but I doubt they will be legal to operate at scale inside cities in 2041. We might see them flying between cities though. I simply struggle to see how to resolve all the issues that arise when something much bigger than the Wing drones or ordinary recreational drones wants to operate in cities.

            The best current-tech comparison I can think of is a small helicopter. Technically feasible to land on many (empty) streets, but logistically and legally very limited in where they actually do operate inside cities. The Boeing cargo drone is already approaching the dimensions of an ultralight helicopter, except more compact in the height dimension.

            4 votes
            1. j3n
              Link Parent
              I'm a researcher who works more or less directly on working out the legalities of this. I firmly believe we'll have the legalities worked out long before the technology catches up. We've been...

              I'm a researcher who works more or less directly on working out the legalities of this. I firmly believe we'll have the legalities worked out long before the technology catches up. We've been working on this for years and our biggest problem right now is that we have essentially no way to do large scale real-world testing because no one is really ready to launch these vehicle en mass.

              The basic mode of operation is going to be a separate and far more automated/technology based air traffic control system that allows for much more granular clearances to operate.

              As far as technology goes, you hit the nail on the head with the comparison to a helicopter. If you think drones of any kind are some kind of revolutionary commercial technology, ask yourself what use case they are going to fill and then ask yourself how they fill that niche better than a helicopter. I've yet to hear any convincing argument as to why electric multi-rotor vehicles are ever going to be better or cheaper.

              2 votes
        2. skybrian
          Link Parent
          In the case of Wing, yes they are carrying individual packages and have very limited capacity. The website is terrible, but you can get to the tech specs by scrolling down a lot on this page. The...

          In the case of Wing, yes they are carrying individual packages and have very limited capacity.

          The website is terrible, but you can get to the tech specs by scrolling down a lot on this page.

          The most interesting thing about them is their speed, up to 65 mph, due to having wings (as indicated by the name).

          I'm doubtful that energy is their biggest cost, since they're so light. Maybe someday it will be after the other problems are optimized.

          4 votes
        3. DrStone
          Link Parent
          Perhaps they could work together instead of a full replacement. The delivery truck becomes like an aircraft carrier, driving along an optimized route without stopping, while a small fleet of...

          Perhaps they could work together instead of a full replacement. The delivery truck becomes like an aircraft carrier, driving along an optimized route without stopping, while a small fleet of drones fly back and fort to drop packages on doorsteps within a certain radius.

          4 votes
  2. cmccabe
    Link
    I can imagine a trend in suburban yard landscaping to include drone landing pads or package drop zones.

    I can imagine a trend in suburban yard landscaping to include drone landing pads or package drop zones.

    5 votes
  3. [5]
    skybrian
    (edited )
    Link
    I had forgotten all about them. That must be fun to see. I wonder how much business they get just from the novelty factor? The limit seems to be 1.2 kg according to the FAQ.

    I had forgotten all about them. That must be fun to see. I wonder how much business they get just from the novelty factor?

    The limit seems to be 1.2 kg according to the FAQ.

    3 votes
    1. [4]
      spacecowboy
      Link Parent
      That's what arbitrary milestone numbers are for - to remind you about it. The economics of truck package delivery is that 1 package is ~$1. That's how much Amazon pays delivery companies. Would...

      That's what arbitrary milestone numbers are for - to remind you about it.

      The economics of truck package delivery is that 1 package is ~$1. That's how much Amazon pays delivery companies. Would automated drone delivery be able to beat that if launched at scale?

      5 votes
      1. [3]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        I don’t know what the biggest costs would be. The drone is automated, but I suppose someone has to load it? I expect it would be in addition to other shipping methods, not really a replacement.

        I don’t know what the biggest costs would be. The drone is automated, but I suppose someone has to load it?

        I expect it would be in addition to other shipping methods, not really a replacement.

        2 votes
        1. MimicSquid
          Link Parent
          Given the limited range of payload sizes, if package sizes were standardized for drone delivery loading could be done mostly or wholly by robots.

          Given the limited range of payload sizes, if package sizes were standardized for drone delivery loading could be done mostly or wholly by robots.

          2 votes