Drone-delivery specialist Wing has lifted the lid on its secret testing facility in Australia.
A video (below) shared by the Alphabet-owned company shows how its team is continuing to develop its drone technology while at the same time running trial services delivering snacks and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals to residents in places such as Logan City near Brisbane.
Customers using Wing’s delivery service can order items using an app on their smartphone. When the drone arrives, it lowers the package to the ground via a tether before flying back to base.
While Wing has been trialing drone-based delivery services in very limited locations in the U.S. and Finland over the last few years, most of its research and testing is being carried out in multiple locations in Australia, where the authorities have a more relaxed attitude toward such services.
“We obviously want to bring that to the U.S.,” Tony, a Wing flight test engineer, says in the video. “And so one of the focuses of the flight test team this year has been on type certification [certifying the airworthiness of a particular category of aircraft]. Using this facility to exercise the durability and reliability cycles among other components we hope will eventually lead to us receiving type certification in the U.S.”
The test facility in the video shows Wing’s “48-pad array,” a setup comprising multiple launch and landing pads that allow the team to test numerous flights at once.
The video also offers a peek at Wing’s Ground Control Station, which acts as an air traffic control facility so personnel can confirm the precise whereabouts of the autonomous flying machines as they buzz to and from delivery addresses.
We also get to see the “Nestlet,” essentially a shipping container that holds all of the necessary equipment to allow Wing to set up a drone-delivery facility within a day. The ability to set up a lightweight drone operation in less than 24 hours could be useful in an emergency situation such as the aftermath of an earthquake or flood when cut-off individuals or communities find it hard to obtain supplies.
The company appears to be making good progress with its service in Australia, having so far this year carried out more than 100,000 delivery flights. Moving forward, Wing engineers are continuing to upgrade the delivery drone for more efficient and quieter flights while seeking certification to allow it to move beyond the test phase.