It's widely known that Google has been working on driverless cars for quite some time, but the company has just revealed that it's also been looking into autonomous aerial vehicles, something which the search giant has kept under wraps for the past two years.
According to The Atlantic, Google is developing its own fleet of package delivery drones under an initiative dubbed Project Wing. The project is being developed at Google X, the company's secret research lab also in charge of Google Glass and Project Loon.
Project Wing was originally conceived as a way to deliver defibrillators to aid people who had suffered heart attacks, but since that involved integration with 911 and emergency services, Google realized that it would eliminate the speed advantage they thought it could deliver.
Of course, the drones could be used for delivering goods, but the company is currently focusing on disaster relief scenarios, for example, after earthquakes, floods, or extreme weather events. "Even just a few of these, being able to shuttle nearly continuously could service a very large number of people in an emergency situation", said Astro Teller, head of Google X.
Back in July 2012, Google recruited Nick Roy, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, to head the project and get it off the ground. He returned to MIT this month, and Dave Vos, a veteran in automated aviation systems, has now been tasked with turning the prototype into a commercial product.
The program is still in pilot phase and is bound to face significant regulatory hurdles before it becomes reality. “It’s gonna take conversations with the public and with regulators. But so far in the conversations we’ve had over the last two years, and more intensely over the last couple months with regulators, I’m cautiously optimistic that everyone wants the same thing”, Tellar said.
Meanwhile, the company has been testing these drones in Australia, delivering packages to remote farms in Queensland. Below is a video of the project.