Drone Technology On the Horizon – But FAA Needs to Make Changes

Google X drone
 

Google X, Google’s advanced research lab, has announced that it is developing drone technology to deliver goods. Its 5-foot-wide, 2.5-foot-high single-wing drones have four propellers that allow them to get into position for different stages of flight. The packages for delivery fit into the gap in the middle of the wing.

Google indicated that it has been running test flights since 2013, and it aims to have the drones flying programmed routes of 130 feet to 200 feet with just one push of a button. The team noted that it would take years to develop a service with multiple vehicles delivering multiple items per day.

They aren’t the only ones…Amazon.com and Domino’s pizza are already testing similar programs – and this is all while commercial drones are largely banned across the United States. The Federal Aviation Administration approved the first commercial drone flight over land in June (from the BP PLC in Alaska). However, the agency is treading carefully because drones pose privacy concerns and could be potentially dangerous.

Google has been steadily proceeding with testing since 2011. Its most recent technological accomplishments were shown off in a YouTube video released earlier this summer. In the demonstration/commercial, Australian farmers order dog food online, and a drone gets into action. The drone rises vertically with its wing pointing up, and then shifts to horizontal positioning for flight.

Will these new capabilities lead to growth? Google hopes the project will create new opportunities for economic growth. The next step is to develop the prototype into a commercial product. Amazon is doing the same – they started with testing of delivery packages earlier this year and then asked the FAA for permission to test in open U.S. airspace.

Both companies acknowledge that regulatory approval could take many years. The FAA said that having both Google and Amazon working on the project may increase the chances of them considering approval.

 

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