Alphabet launches European drone delivery pilot
Written by Hannah McGrath
Google’s parent group Alphabet is to roll out its delivery drone technology to Europe with trial in Helsinki next spring.
Alphabet’s drone company Wing announced plans to launch a small service trial of its 12-propeller drones - capable of delivering packages of up to 1.5kg for up to 6.2 miles - in the Finnish city at an appearance at the Slush conference in Helsinki, the Telegraph reported.
Wing has already been testing the resistance of its Hummingbird drones to the Finnish winter weather with a trial in Tampere. The Hummingbirds have not been landing with packages, but have been lowering them to the ground using string.
The news that the tech giant is introducing delivery drones into Europe comes after 18 months of testing in Australia, during which Wing has run four trials racking up a total of 55,000 journeys.
It follows a more challenging attempt to launch drone delivery pilots in the US, where the regulatory environment has complicated attempts to run a drone delivery service capable of countering the dominance of Amazon’s e-commerce delivery model.
In the UK, Amazon completed its first commercial drone delivery at the end of 2016, delivering a package in Cambridge as part of its new Amazon Prime Air service.
Wing is also working on an air traffic management system which will enable drones to pass safely through the skies.
For retailers and e-commerce firms, drone delivery opens up the possibility of consumers receiving their goods within minutes of submitting an order, with a much lower carbon footprint compared to traditional ground delivery.
Drone delivery could also give smaller businesses the chance to compete with the likes of Amazon, as delivery infrastructure barriers are removed.
Test cases for Wing drones could include delivery of items such as over-the-counter medicines, groceries and household essentials, as well as emergency tools such as ice-scrapers for car windows.