Forward-looking: A future where all of our shipments are delivered by autonomous drones is probably still years away, but the tech industry is making steady progress toward that goal. Amazon and UPS are both already testing out such systems, and Alphabet's "Wing" division has just begun a similar pilot program in the city of Christiansburg, Virginia.
According to Wing, this program is America's first true consumer-facing drone delivery service. The service kicked off after Wing received an "Air Carrier Certificate" from the Federal Aviation Administration. With that certification, Wing has been granted permission to use unmanned drones to drop packages off on the doorsteps of various Christiansburg homes.
Of course, Wing is not a retailer in and of itself, so it has partnered up with Walgreens and local Virginia retailer Sugar Magnolia for product deliveries. The company is also working with FedEx Express to allow for "scheduled" drone deliveries.
Wing says its drones can be dispatched "minutes" after a customer places an order (this is perhaps an exaggeration), and upon arrival at a given address, the drones will gently drop off the package at a "designated" location. This seems to imply that users will be able to choose where they want their items delivered.
Inside its announcement, Wing posted a few stories from those who have participated in this pilot program; likely to prove its effectiveness. One family had several Walgreens-brand health medical products delivered to their home, such as Tylenol, cough and cold packs, as well as tissues. In another case, a husband ordered a birthday gift for his wife via FedEx Express.
If you happen to live in Christiansburg, you can participate in this experiment by joining Wing's "Early Flyers" program, the details for which can be found on the company's official website.