Company launches drones from roof of shopping mall

Alphabet Inc.’s drone subsidiary Wing is experimenting with launching its aircraft from the roof of an Australian shopping center just steps from stores providing goods for delivery.

Wing LLC has made more than 2,500 deliveries from a shopping center in Logan City to neighboring areas south of Brisbane, the company said in a press release last week. The test is being carried out in partnership with Vicinity Centers, which operates shopping centers across Australia.

“For the first time, we are co-locating our drones with businesses on their premises, rather than local businesses having to co-locate their goods with us in our delivery center,” Jesse Suskin, Policy and Community Affairs Manager at Wing in Australia. , said in the statement.

The experiment is an attempt to bring the corporate drone delivery model closer to the normal way small businesses operate. So far, in its Australian pilot program at the Grand Plaza Shopping Center in Logan, Wing has worked with companies selling sushi, juice, and tea-based drinks. A pharmacy is also starting to sell over-the-counter drugs and other items, the company said.

While it is too early to know whether such an arrangement could bolster the sag in physical stores, Vicinity sees the partnership as a way to grow its business, said Justin Mills, chief innovation and information officer at the company.

“The retail industry is evolving and Vicinity uses a test and learn approach in areas critical to the role of Australian shopping centers going forward,” Mills said in the statement.

Wing, Inc.’s Prime Air, and United Parcel Service Inc., along with dozens of small startups, are fighting to create a new business model that would use small unmanned planes to expedite the delivery of goods directly to customers. .

However, routine and widespread drone deliveries remain for years to come as companies grapple with factors ranging from the profitability of these companies to public acceptance. At the same time, the industry is still working on some of the finer points of potentially disruptive technology, such as how to prevent dozens of autonomous delivery drones from flying into each other. And regulators such as the US Federal Aviation Administration have yet to develop new rules allowing such flights.

An airstrip with room for at least 16 Wing drones has been installed on the roof of the mall, according to photos released by the company.

Wing has exceeded 100,000 deliveries to its test sites in Australia, the United States and Finland. The company also announced plans to expand its testing operations in the United States.

Wing is working with Virginia Tech on its US test program in nearby Christiansburg, Virginia.

The company operates a hybrid aircraft just over 4 feet long that can take off vertically and then fly horizontally much like an airplane. He carries a package in his stomach. Once the drone reaches a customer’s drop point, a cable lowers the package to the ground as the plane flies overhead.

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