Wing, the drone delivery division of Google parent company Alphabet, said Wednesday that it's expanded operations to parts of the Dallas-Forth Worth area. This is a significant expansion into a more complex urban area, though operations so far are limited to carrying packages from a Walgreens parking lot to residents of Frisco and Little Elm on the northern edge of the metro area.
The technology uses a new drone model and flight routing technology for a "highly automated drone delivery service in more crowded, complex operating environments," Wing said in a statement. Wing already operates in the less populated area of Christiansburg, Virginia.
The expansion marks a new chapter for drone deliveries. Operations like Wing and Amazon Air hope to shorten delivery times by sending smaller packages through the air directly to customers' homes, the idea being to bypass congested roads and bring new immediacy to commerce. Of course, not everyone is happy with the issues of noise, safety and privacy drones raise.
A second Wing launch site is in development in Frisco, too. That's in cooperation with real estate developer Hillwood, whose AllianceTexas includes a "mobility innovation zone" that has ties to goods shipping by air, rail, trucking and Amazon Air drones.
"We'll begin a small number of test flights next week in Frisco and Little Elm, and hope to set up delivery demonstrations to get feedback from the community in the coming weeks," Wing said. "In the coming months, we expect to launch a commercial service there that would be the first of its kind in a major US metro."
Wing already operates in another large city: Canberra, Australia, where its drones can carry packages for distances reaching six miles from the operation's center. The drones travel up to 70 mph and lower packages to customer properties using a cable.
In September, Wing paused operations in one part of Canberra after reports of birds attacking a drone, with one video showing a raven striking a midair drone with its feet but ultimately not causing a crash.
"It's common during nesting season in Australia for ravens and magpies to swoop at moving objects, including cyclists, pedestrians, cars and occasionally, drones. Our delivery drone is built with multiple redundancies to help ensure safe operations in the event that something like this occurs. Consistent with those procedures, this aircraft completed the delivery and returned to our facility safely," Wing said in a statement about the event. "Wing has made over 100,000 deliveries with no safety incidents."