Google is continuing its journey into the world of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), as it introduces a parcel-delivery UAV prototype developed under its two-year Project Wing effort.
The technology company is developing the concept through its Google X research division, and the announcement follows on from the company’s April 2014 acquisition of Titan Aerospace – a high-altitude, long endurance (HALE) solar-powered UAV manufacturer.
“Throughout history there have been a series of innovations that have each taken a huge chunk out of the friction of moving things around,” says Google X Moonshots captain Astro Teller in a promotional video posted on 28 August. “Project Wing aspires to take another big chunk of the remaining friction out of moving things around the world.”
Testing took place in Australia as recently as two weeks ago, during which first aid kits and food were delivered to Australian farmers.
In the video the fixed-wing prototype (pictured above) is shown to make a controlled drop of the parcel from a height using a tether, and so far Google says the development has “resulted in a reliable system that can do autonomous delivery”.
Google admits it is “years from a product”, but is confident in this first prototype, which it describes as more akin to a driverless car – which Google is also researching – than to other remote-controlled UAVs.
Dave Vos, the founder of Athena Technologies - a company that developed control software for UAVs and was purchased by Rockwell Collins in 2008 - has been named as lead on the project. The next stage of Project Wing will see Google X working to prove a UAV can quickly and safely deliver items.