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Alphabet gets clearance to begin testing delivery drones in US

Tests in designated areas are part of a White House effort to increase spending on unmanned flight research.


Alphabet is a step closer to getting its proposed drone delivery service off the ground.

Google's parent company will be allowed to test its unmanned aerial vehicles in designated areas in the US, the White House said Tuesday. The test flights were announced as part of a new initiative unveiled by the US National Science Foundation, which plans to spend $35 million over the next five years on unmanned flight research.

"Data gathered will be shared with government partners to help regulators answer critical safety and human factors questions for UAV cargo delivery operations," the White House said in a statement.

The announcement comes less than two months after the Federal Aviation Administration finalized regulations for commercial use of drones, making it easier for pilots to use drones for everything from structural or crop inspection to search-and-rescue operations to film production. However, those new rules did not include approval for commercial delivery services.

Delivery drones such as those to be tested as part of Alphabet's Project Wing have in recent years attracted the attention of retailers looking for new ways to get a jump on the competition and attract customers. Speedy delivery is one such method. Small, commercial aerial drones are seen as a way to avoid the delays of terrestrial deliveries by flying above traffic and avoiding circuitous roadways.

The Mountain View, California-based company announced Project Wing in 2014, challenging Amazon, which in December 2013 announced plans to use drones as part of a Prime Air delivery service. In November, Google said it could start delivering packages by 2017. Amazon announced last week that it would soon be testing drone deliveries in the UK.

Alphabet representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.