The White House announced yesterday that it would collaborate with Alphabet, Google’s parent company, on drone delivery.
The White House Fact Sheet about the government’s commitment to the commercial drone industry states that Google will deploy “Project Wing” at an FAA test site, and will share data with government agencies. “Project Wing will conduct an operational research study at one of the six FAA UAS Test Sites to gain full operational experience of its delivery service in a safe testing environment,” says the announcement. “Data gathered will be shared with government partners to help regulators answer critical safety and human factors questions for UAV cargo delivery operations.”
The testing should contribute to government research which will lead to flight beyond line of sight (BLOS), a regulatory shift necessary for many industrial drone applications including drone delivery. Additionally, Google will work to develop a drone traffic management system for low-altitude airspace. “The work, which will focus on encouraging good citizenship in operation and collaboration between and across industry and government, will help ensure safe integration of sUAS in the layer of airspace under 400 feet,” says the White House.
The head of Project Wing, Dave Vos, spoke about the project at the White House Workshop on Drones and the Future of Aviation yesterday. The test program will be the most important drone delivery trial in the US so far. Drone delivery company Flirtey has performed 3 tests of drone delivery, including rural delivery, urban delivery, and ship -to-shore. The Google test will be the most lengthy project so far; but will be conducted entirely on an FAA test site.
While Google appears to have met it’s prediction that they would be working on drone delivery in the US within a year, Amazon seems to have given up on collaboration with the government. Amazon has invested heavily in advocacy efforts in the US over the last year, but announced last month that they had entered into an agreement with the UK government to test their drone delivery program overseas.