Google’s Wing to test drone delivery in Ireland
A few weeks ago, Wing, one of Alphabet's divisions, introduced its drone delivery service in the USA, and is now ready to test this service again in Europe. After a previous trial in Finland, a new pilot test will take place during the autumn in Lusk, a small town in County Fingal, Ireland. Wing’s goal is to gain experience in a new territory, but also to gradually identify the various kinds of local opportunities it could tap, arising from businesses and consumers alike.
This new full-scale test phase has been made possible by a legislative framework that now allows Wing to fly drones in Europe. Alphabet's drone delivery service claims to have already fulfilled 300,000 deliveries, chiefly in Australia and the USA. These deliveries are mostly the result of local trials conducted in small-size areas where population density and therefore delivery risk is especially low.
Running such operations in Europe, where population density is much higher, will of course pose a new set of challenges. For the time being, Wing is focusing on delivering small, light parcels ordered to vendors close to the buyers' homes, mostly containing food or medicines.
Originally, Wing was set up both for environmentally friendly reasons, to offer emissions-free deliveries, but also practical ones, notably to reduce road traffic. The idea is that drones can provide a quicker and more effective delivery service for small parcels, in order to better meet the needs of Wing’s partner retailers. Currently, the average drone delivery time is about 15 minutes, and in some cases, it can take less than five minutes.
A number of international retail and trade players are keen not to fall behind in the drone delivery race. In addition to US e-commerce giant Amazon, which set the race off in 2013, also in contention is Japanese e-commerce group Rakuten, which in spring bought sector specialist Sky Estate, with plans to run drone deliveries by 2026. In China, e-tailers Alibaba and JD.com are planning to use drones for delivering to isolated villages at lower costs.
In France, the La Poste group presented at the Viva Tech show’s spring session its latest drone prototype, capable of transporting six parcels simultaneously, already in use in the country’s Var and Isère regions. Last year, another French small-parcel operator, Colis Privé, recently bought by CMA-CGM, partnered with Airbus’s Survey Copter subsidiary to evaluate the potential and feasibility of future airborne deliveries.
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