With Alphabet’s (owner of Google) drone delivery arm Wing celebrating 100,000 deliveries this month, attention now turns to the service in Australia, and how drone delivery can become a multi billion dollar industry for years to come.
Wing effectively promises that it will deliver food or other items in approximately 10 minutes to your door. The company currently has two major trial sites located in Canberra and Logan in QLD, but there is more to drone delivery than simply a robot flying around the sky.
Once an order is confirmed, the goods are packed and placed on the drone by workers and then sent to the destination. Wing’s drones lower the goods via winch, alleviating any potential damage inflicted upon a drone. Flight of the drones is autonomous, with one ‘pilot’ acting as overwatch to take over drones if they face issues such as inclement weather.
Deloitte’s recent studies indicate the drone industry in Australia enables further automation of work. Pilots monitor the drones’ journey, people must be on hand to pack the products correctly, and there are members of staff that oversee taking care of the hardware and software of the drones. Given the average 10 minute delivery time, this can be a pressuring exercise for those working for the company with the strict deadlines placed on deliveries.
While less cars and trucks on the road can only be a good thing, there are a number of environmental costs that may well reduce the gains made to fly the drones. The resources that must be taken out of the earth to create the drones must be considered. Supplying energy for data centres and packaging for products can easily contribute to carbon emissions.
In order for companies like Wing to become a mainstream success, Australia’s drone regulations will have to be altered. Many of the laws are likened to aeroplanes, with each autonomous drone required permission to take to the skies from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. With Deloitte estimating the drone industry could be worth $15 billion by 2040, the Australian Government has been thrust into action to alter regulations to do with noise, safety, insurance, security, privacy and potential environmental issues.
Wing is simply one of many companies that will be part of Australia’s growing drone industry. With more companies comes congested flight paths, and potential collisions. Wing is at the coalface of devising infrastructure that mitigates these risks.
Wing’s current approach to its Australian operations is in line with the government’s plans to create a nationwide unmanned traffic management system in the next five years. Wing’s testing sites will offer insight into factors such as safety, communication and data management. Those who are creating the policies for drone delivery regulations will need to ensure that all in the market are able to access the same infrastructure and data, but this may well be easier said than done. The potential issues of having drones scattered across our sky has barely been touched upon, let alone addressed.
Drone delivery stands to grow exponentially within Australia in the coming years. COVID-19 is giving these companies the opportunity to grow their agenda, making the point that the services are contact free and covid safe. Those who are tasked with creating policies for drone delivery must ensure they do not succumb to the agendas of big brands, and ensure that the industry is well regulated. If not, the potential issues may be too great to overcome.