Google’s Parent Company Alphabet To Test Drone Delivery

Google's parent company Alphabet will test its "Project Wing" drones for cargo delivery to help the federal government create policies for safely bringing goods to U.S. consumers by air, the White House announced Tuesday.

"Data gathered will be shared with government partners to help regulators answer critical safety and human-factors questions for (drone) cargo delivery operations," the White House said in a news release.

Project Wing is part of Alphabet's "X," also known as the experimental "moonshot" unit charged with developing transformative technology. The X section falls under the company's "Other Bets" category of all units that aren't Google. Other Bets collectively lost $859 million last quarter.

However, Alphabet and Google are poised to step into the lucrative commercial delivery market and compete against Amazon, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service from a position of entrenched strength, suggested Gartner analyst Gerald Van Hoy.

"They have the ability to kind of take you from search to purchase to delivery, and that's what the power is behind Google and is why they're interested in doing this," Van Hoy said.

Project Wing's testing at one of six federally approved sites in the U.S. will include evaluation of two capacities critical for large-scale commercial drone delivery: carrying external cargo and delivering goods beyond the operator's line of sight. The important safety and human-element questions to answer revolve around avoiding other aircraft and keeping people on the ground safe, said Skylogic Research drone analyst Colin Snow.

The Federal Aviation Administration's guidelines for commercial drones prohibit flying beyond line of sight and over people not involved in the flight. Both those limitations will have to be removed for commercial deliveries to go ahead, Snow said.

Alphabet's testing site was not identified, but all six federal sites are outside California.

Companies considering drone delivery should welcome Alphabet's testing and the federal government's efforts to facilitate...

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