Project Wing to trial food delivery by drone to homes in Tuggeranong
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Project Wing to trial food delivery by drone to homes in Tuggeranong

Drones will deliver food to homes in Tuggeranong as a trial of the technology moves into the suburbs.

Project Wing has been testing its drones with residents living with large backyards in rural community Royalla but is ready to take its next big leap.

Project Wing has been developing a drone delivery service for Tuggeranong, delivering hot meals and chemist supplies. Delivery project manager Luke Barrington takes delivery of a hot lunch from Guzman Y Gomez.

Project Wing has been developing a drone delivery service for Tuggeranong, delivering hot meals and chemist supplies. Delivery project manager Luke Barrington takes delivery of a hot lunch from Guzman Y Gomez.Credit:karleen minney

Flying at 120 km/h and delivering food from Mexican fast food business Guzman y Gomez, and items from Chemist Warehouse, Project Wing has signed up 150 users in its early tests.

Now it wants to learn how to deliver to smaller backyards as it readies its technology for cities.

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Project Wing, run by a division of international California-based company Alphabet, began testing in Australia in 2014 and will hold a community barbecue at Bonython on Saturday to explain drone deliveries to potential users.

It will expand into other Tuggeranong suburbs, which will see its drones fly into backyards and lower food onto delivery zones using winches before zooming back to base.

The drones, propelled with two horizontal and 12 vertical engines in a mish-mash of helicopter and aeroplane design, can service areas up to 10km away and cut delivery times by making a bee-line for their destinations.

They hover at five metres high as they drop their packages onto their delivery zone.

Project Wing's experiments in Royalla since July have let it learn from residents and resolve their concerns, and its team is ready to listen to its potential suburban customers.

Product manager Luke Barrington said the testing let the project test how people would use its app, demonstrate the safety of the technology and see how it would work in real environments.

It chose the small community because its residents had a 40-minute round trip to their nearest shops.

Mr Barrington said it had found a sweet spot there, and the ACT, which he found forward-thinking with new technology making it an attractive place to test its drone delivery service.

"We've been able to deliver to these big open paddocks, which has taught us a tonne. But now if we want to make drone delivery accessible for everyone we have to navigate smaller backyards and tighter situations," he said.

Users can order their food, or items from Chemist Warehouse, using an app that figures out a flight path with software developed by the project team - described by co-lead James Burgess as "kind of like Google Maps for the skies".

Alphabet's "moonshot factory" division, called X, is also behind driverless car technology, and a balloon that beams the Internet into regions without connections to the web.

Mr Barrington said the company was closer every day to making drone deliveries mainstream, and had to make sure that people wanted to adopt it.

"That's what we're really here to learn, is to get feedback from the community about how they see drones interacting with their daily lives."

Doug Dingwall is a reporter for The Canberra Times covering the public service and politics.