Google aims to launch its drone delivery business by 2017, Dave Vos head of company’s Project Wing program, told attendees of an Air Traffic Control conference in Washington on Monday, says Reuters. Project Wing was announced in August 2014, which is two years after the start of the initial search.
Google aiming for an ambitious target
This seems to be a very ambitious deadline as the rules around how commercial drones will operate, especially over densely populated cities, still have to be approved by the FAA. Besides the regulatory uncertainty, drones have yet to test robust sense-and-avoid technology so that they are able to avoid accidents while operating in the real world.
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There is also need of a setup to allow the drones to communicate among themselves and with traditional aircraft as well. This is a mandatory requirement from a safety point of view before large fleets of delivery drones could be allowed to move around our airspace.
What about Amazon’s plans?
In July, the head of Amazon’s Prime Air program, Gur Kimchi, talked about how he sees delivery drones operating. He believes civilian drones will have a limit of 200 feet, as the FAA allows hobbyist drones to fly to 400 feet. Both types of drones will share the airspace with low-speed transit. High-speed transit will have the 200 to 400 feet airspace reserved, he believes, for delivery drones that travel from warehouses to a recipient’s house.
He doesn’t think the drones will be allowed to fly at 400 to 500 feet as, above this airspace, traditional aircraft such as helicopters operate. Planes fly at much higher levels, and drones will probably not be allowed to fly near airports or in paths that traditional aircraft use for takeoff and landing.
Similar plans but different technology
Google has similar plans, but the two companies differ on the technology that drones should use for communicating with aircraft and with air traffic control on the ground. Some in the industry are advocating the use of the ADS-B system, which is being rolled out to traditional aircraft, while others are in favor of cellular networks that are already in place.
The FAA task force is working on creating the next generation of air traffic control. Google and Amazon both are a part of this team, along with Wal-Mart, which also has ambitions for a drone delivery fleet.