Wing drones to make FedEx, Walgreens deliveries in test

The drone unit spun out of a “moonshot” lab at Google parent Alphabet will start “last-mile” deliveries for and Walgreens next month under a pilot project announced Thursday.

The drone delivery service to launch in October in Christiansburg, Virginia, will be the most advanced real-world test of the technology to quickly fly items ranging from Gummy Bears to painkillers to customers, Wing chief executive James Burgess said Thursday.

“We are really excited,” Burgess said of the test set to lift-off in Virginia, noting it could be a while before Wing drone deliveries spread across the country.

“We still have a ways to go before it is the norm.”

From e-commerce titan Amazon to startups such as Flirty, companies have been working on drone systems to quickly, cleanly, and safely deliver goods to customers, in some cases within minutes.

Earlier this year, Wing became the first drone operation to be certified as an air carrier by the US Federal Aviation Administration, clearing the regulatory path for it to make delivers to buyers.

FedEx and Walgreens customers will need to live in designated delivery areas, and sign up for the service.

Wing weighing about 4.5 kilos (10 pounds) will carry goods in specially designed containers, hovering in the air and lowering packages by winch to designated drop zones outside people’s homes.

Cargo will be limited to no more than 1.3 kilos (three pounds), and the times from ordering something to it being plopped outside homes was expected to be minutes.

Items that will be available for delivery from US drugstore chain Walgreens include children’s snacks and over-the-counter drugs such as cold or pain medicines, according to Vish Sankaran, chief innovation officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance.

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“With this pilot, Walgreens will be in a unique position to capitalize on the convenience of drone delivery if and when it should expand, with approximately 78 percent of the US population living within five miles of a Walgreens store,” Sankaran said.

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