The latest new initiative from Google is called Project Wing, and it aims to achieve deliveries by drone to customers by 2017.
The project leader for the tech giant’s delivery service, David Vos, announced the target date, and it marks a significant development in the rivalry between Amazon, Alibaba and other companies that are also experimenting with drone systems.
Vos used a speech at an air traffic control convention held in Washington to make the announcement, and said: “Our goal is to have commercial business up and running in 2017.”
The plans to use unmanned flying vehicles to make deliveries have caused some controversy in various countries, with many people wondering how the drones will be regulated, if at all.
Google hasn’t announced any specific details about what type of drones it might be intending to use for the service. There is also some confusion over what exactly the company will be delivering as currently Google doesn’t supply goods direct to consumers.
However, Project Wing has been spoken about since last year as it was initially being run inside Google X, which is the company’s top secret research and development lab.
The project is now understood to be controlled by parent company Alphabet, which is the overall umbrella under which former divisions of Google now operate.
The early work on the drone project saw the company build its own machines and test them out using trail flights in Australia. The initial reports suggested that rather than delivering consumer goods, the drones would be used for disaster relief to deliver items such as urgently needed medical or other supplies to stricken areas.
The custom-designed Google drones that have been seen can hover and then use a winch to lower
packages safely down to the ground for delivery.
Amazon has already detailed drone delivery plans with octocopters that can carry loads weighing up to 2.3kg to customers. The idea is to cut delivery times in some cases down to as little as 30 minutes from an order being placed.
Whatever the outcome and whoever gets there first, drone deliveries are certain to be coming and are likely to revolutionise online shopping and marketing yet again.