Get ready for delivery like you’ve never seen it before: a burrito, zooming by at 120 kilometers per hour. It’s a promise we’ve been hearing from drone enthusiasts for years, but we may finally be able to actually summon food from the skies as early as next spring.
That’s thanks to Alphabet company Wing, which intends to populate Helsinki’s low-altitude airspace with Europe’s first drone delivery service. After spending the past 18 months testing deliveries with local businesses in Australia, the company is gearing to bring its tech to Finland, promising to deliver packages 1.5 kilograms or less within a 10 kilometer range in ten minutes.
These little baby drones are essentially being tossed into the deep end to learn how to swim. The thinking is, if these five kilogram drones can survive the harsh temperatures found in the land of the midnight sun, Wing has faith the drones will succeed elsewhere. Did I mention that deliveries during this trial period will be free?
Delivery drones are about far more than accommodating humanity’s endless capacity for laziness. Quick delivery drones hold huge potential delivering medical supplies like defibrillators and first aid kits, or resources like water to drought-plagued farmers with a simple click of an app. But our dreams are already behind schedule, unless Jeff Bezos has a massive holiday surprise in store — back in December 2013, Bezos promised drone deliveries within five years. Wing won’t make this deadline either, but its delivery date is on the horizon.
Companies like Wing also argue that they give you a reason to feel good about their mode of delivery. Their drones, powered on clean electric power, are emission free. By staying off the roads, Wing’s total carbon footprint stays 22 times lower than what can be achieved with traditional delivery methods. In the game of driving efficiently, three right turns beats one left turn, but it’s hard to beat no turns at all.
Wing also proposes its service as an easy way for local businesses to stay in touch with customers.
Why Don’t We Have Delivery Drones Already?
With an estimated 110,000 commercial drones already operating in the US airspace for applications ranging from mining to pipeline inspection, it seems that delivery drones should have been bringing us our burritos for years. But while the technology obviously seems ready — both Wing and Amazon Prime Air have made successful drone deliveries since 2016 — there have been lots of logistical hurdles. In these past 18 months, Wing worked out all kinds of kinks of public delivery, from identifying safe delivery locations to optimizing the package loading and unloading mechanism.
Some logistical hurdles remain, mainly orchestrating the air traffic of a large fleet of drones (as well as keeping them charged). A bigger hurdle though, is regulating surrounding drone flights, which continue to challenge the industry in the US, which currently bans night flights and operation over federal facilities or near airports. Most restrictive though, is the requirement to always keep machines in sight of the operator.
So if you’re craving the special satisfaction of a drone-delivered burrito, it may be the perfect time to head to Finland.
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