Forward-looking: There is likely still years away from a world where all our deliveries are handled by autonomous drones, but the tech industry is making steady progress towards that target. Both Amazon and UPS are already testing such systems, and the “Wing” division of Alphabet has just started a similar pilot program in Christiansburg City, Virginia.
This project is the first real consumer-facing drone delivery system in America, according to Wing. The operation kicked off after Wing obtained the Federal Aviation Administration’s “Air Carrier License.” With this certificate, Wing was granted permission to use unmanned drones to drop parcels off at various Christiansburg homes’ doorsteps.
Of note, Wing is not a distributor in and of itself, so for product delivery it has partnered with Walgreens and regional Virginia retailer Sugar Magnolia. The company also partners with FedEx Express to allow “scheduled” shipments of drones.
Wing says its drones can be deployed “minutes” after a customer places an order (this may be an exaggeration), and the drones will drop off the package gently at a “designated” location when they arrive at a given address. This seems to mean that consumers can choose where they want to ship their products.
Wing posted a few stories from those who took part in this pilot program inside its announcement; probably to demonstrate its efficacy. One family had several medical products shipped to their home by the Walgreens company, such as Tylenol, cough and cold drops, and tissues. In another scenario, through FedEx Express, a husband ordered a birthday gift to his wife.
If you happen to be living in Christiansburg, you can take part in this project by entering the “Early Flyers” program of Wing, whose information can be found on the official website of the company.