Aussie tests help FAA approval of US drone deliveries

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April 24, 2019
Drone deliveries FAA
Image: Wing.

The flying burrito bothers are set to hit US communities after Alphabet’s Wing Aviation Wednesday to receive US Federal Aviation Administration certification for drone deliveries of food and other packages.

The announcement by US transportation Secretary Elaine Chao paves the way for the Google parent company to start delivering in Blacksburg, Virginia in association with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation partnership and Virginia Tech.

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The FAA said Wing demonstrated that its operations met its rigorous safety requirements for an air carrier certificate based on extensive data and documentation “as well as safe flights conducted in Australia over the past several years”.

The company conducted trials on the outskirts of the Australian capital of Canberra and generated hundreds of complaints from local residents to local politician Gai Brodtman.

Brodtman called for the trail to be “thoroughly reviewed” after residents raised concerns about noise, privacy, disturbance to wildlife and a perceived lack of transparency and government oversight.

Project Wing earlier this year introduced a new, quieter drone with redesigned propellers. The company said the new version emitted a lower frequency noise compared to what local media described as a “high-frequency wailing”.

The drones flew through the trial without incident but raised questions about drone noise regulation.

The company this month announced it would expand its deliveries in Canberra, delivering items such as food, hot coffee and pharmaceutical products to about 100 homes using the quieter drones.

The FAA said Wing planned to reach out to the local community in Virginia before it began food delivery “to gather feedback to inform its future operations”.

The delivery service will be part of the FAA’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Integration Pilot Program. This is designed to accelerate safe drone integration while evaluating  sticky questions such as security and privacy issues

“This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy,’’ Chao said. “Safety continues to be our number one priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential.”

Wing last year announced it would also start a new pilot project in Helsinki and other companies, including Amazon, are also looking at drone deliveries.