Technology Alphabet’s Wing Plans Drone Drug-Store Deliveries Within a Month
Walgreens, Google affiliate to test drone deliveries
Walgreens and a Google affiliate are testing drone deliveries that can put drugstore products on customer doorsteps minutes after being ordered. Snacks like Goldfish Crackers or gummi bears as well as aspirin for sick kids will be delivered starting next month in Christiansburg, Virginia, by a 10-pound drone flying as fast as 70 miles per hour, the companies said Thursday. Customers will be able to order from a list of more than 100 items that includes consumer goods and cough and cold remedies but not prescriptions.The drone will be run by Wing Aviation LLC, a subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet Inc.
(Bloomberg) -- One of the nation’s largest drug store chains and a shipping service giant are joining forces, with Alphabet Inc.’s Wing to begin a first-of-its-kind drone delivery service in October.
Walgreens, FedEx Corp. and Wing, an offshoot of Google that was theU.S. drone operator to receive partial certification as an airline, will begin the exploratory deliveries in the small town of Christiansburg, Virginia, the companies said in an announcement Thursday.
The companies aim to go beyond the small-scale delivery demonstrations that have occurred so far in the U.S., typically under controlled environments conducted over short ranges, they said.
Alphabet’s Wing drones will soon deliver FedEx and Walgreens packages
This fall, Alphabet's drone delivery arm Wing will begin delivering goods for FedEx Express, Walgreens and a small retailer. The pilot program will be based in Christiansburg, Virginia, and it's meant to prove that Wing's drones are ready to deliver health care products, fill last-mile delivery needs and give local retailers a boost. In April, Wing became the first drone delivery company to receive its Air Carrier Certification from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This pilot program has been months in the making. With Walgreens, Wing will deliver over-the-counter medicines and other health and wellness items on-demand.
“Wing has spent the last seven years developing a delivery drone and navigation system for this purpose,” Chief Executive Officer James Ryan Burgess said in the release. “By delivering small packages directly to homes through the air in minutes, and making a wide range of medicine, food and other products available to customers, we will demonstrate what we expect safer, faster, cleaner local delivery to look like in the future.”
The announcement is a sign of the rapid maturation of the drone industry, as multiple titans of industry race to find their place in what could become a transforming technology. At the same time, the U.S. government hasn’t created a regulatory structure or formal safety standards for small, low-flying drone operations, so such demonstrations continue to be conducted using waivers to existing rules.
UPS lands broad FAA approval for drone deliveries
The race is on for Amazon, Uber and Google drones.UPS' first approved flight, operated under its Flight Forward subsidiary, was launched at the WakeMed hospital campus in Raleigh, North Carolina. The company said it has previously tested drones for urgent commercial deliveries over water, and tested nonurgent commercial residential delivery in rural areas with drones launched from a UPS package delivery car.
Wing has conducted demonstrations of how its deliveries would work before, includingto a toddler in Virginia last year. But the project with Walgreens and FedEx is designed to send actual merchandise to customers on a far bigger scale.
The demonstration project is being conducted near the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and is associated with the Mid-Atlantic Partnership, one of the groups selected by the U.S. government as testing entities for drone commerce. While there is growing demand for using drones to deliver goods and to perform many industrial functions, the Federal Aviation Administration is still in the process of developing regulations to govern them.
Wing is one of the leading companies in the race toward having robotic unmanned craft zip through the sky to people’s homes to drop off goods, and has received waivers to allow longer-range flights.
Alphabet’s Wing starts drone deliveries to US homes
Alphabet's Wing has started making deliveries by drone to homes in the US for the first time. During a pilot program in Christiansburg, Virginia, drones will drop off packages from FedEx, Walgreens and local retailer Sugar Magnolia, which include over-the-counter medication, snacks and gifts. Alphabet says it's the first commercial drone delivery service to homes in the country. The Federal Aviation Administration has granted Wing an expanded Air Carrier Certificate. It has permission to "allow multiple pilots to oversee multiple unmanned aircraft making commercial deliveries simultaneously to the general public.
Amazon.com Inc. and United Parcel Service Inc. are also developing their delivery services, and a host of smaller companies, including Flirtey Inc., are alsoin the field.
The partnership between Wing, Walgreens and FedEx has benefits for all three in the race to exploit the drone economy.
Walgreens, a division of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., and other large drugstore chains have seen their sales chipped away at by Amazon and other online retailers, as the convenience of a brick-and-mortar pharmacy a short drive away has been supplanted by a package delivered to a customer’s front door. Amazon has also moved into the prescription drug business,conveniently-packaged pills through its PillPack unit.
Drugstores Fight Back
In response, the drugstore chains have begun offering competing services to defend themselves. Walgreens offers a delivery service for prescriptions, and has partnered with FedEx to use its stores as package drop-off points. It’s also partnered with Kroger Co. on a pilot program for customers to pick up groceries at Walgreens stores.
UPS and CVS team up to develop drone deliveries right to your house
The project is just getting started, but could result in CVS stores doubling as drone delivery hubs.UPS and CVS on Monday said they're working together to develop drone deliveries of prescriptions and retail products from CVS stores to US homes. This partnership is the first foray into retail for UPS Flight Forward, the shipper's new subsidiary for drone operations. That subsidiary has so far focused on deliveries in and around hospital campuses.
The partnership with Wing gives FedEx leverage to compete against UPS, which is using the small flying devices forhealth-care deliveries, such as blood samples, within a hospital campus in North Carolina.
UPS is also seeking FAA authorization to operate like a small airline and expects to get that designation soon. UPS Chief Executive Officer David Abney has said the focus of drone deliveries would be the health-care industry at first, and then expand from there.
--With assistance from Drew Armstrong.
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In Japan, driving schools convert to drone-schools
According to the Japanese association of drone pilots, it should be possible to train 140,000 telepilots in 2020 to meet the expectations of several sectors of the economy.
In Japan, driving schools have the uncomfortable feeling of not to write in the sense of history. There are hardly more than a thousand and in almost thirty years, the number of people who have obtained their driving license has increased from 2.6 to 1.6 million per year. The fault of accelerated aging of the population, but also the least interest of young Japanese for the automobile.
Faced with this decline, driving schools grouped together within the Driving School Drone Consortium are organized to provide, alongside driving lessons, training drone pilot, qualification increasingly sought. In the past few months, sixteen institutions have offered to graduate, and twenty-four will be operational by the end of the year. The goal is to reach one hundred, or nearly 10% of the total driving schools in Japan, in two years.
Based on recommendations validated by the public authorities, the curriculum proposed within a drone-school provides for ten hours of practical training. We learn to fly a multicopter with or without a GPS connection, but also to program an autonomous flight. In addition, there is six hours of theoretical training on the operation of these aircraft and the regulations in force (the fine in case of overflight of an unauthorized area is 500,000 yen, or nearly 4,000 euros). The cost of this program is around 2,000 euros.Deliveries, aerial imagery and agriculture
According to the Japanese Drone Pilots Association, 140,000 telepilots should be trained by 2020, particularly to meet the expectations of sectors with obvious labor shortages. Urban delivery, building inspection or engineering works, aerial photography and imagery are increasingly using these devices.
In the field of agriculture, where the average age of operators continues to grow, drones (in the form of radio-controlled mini-helicopters and multicopters, more compact and less expensive) have become agricultural vehicles in their own right. They are used for spreading and monitoring rice fields.
In Japan, public demonstrations are also happy to use drones. Without their pilot always managing to control them: in November 2017, the fall of a 4-kilogram machine that dropped candy above the crowd in Ogaki, west of Tokyo, made six wounded.
CVS starts delivering prescriptions to homes via UPS drones .
It didn't take long for UPS and CVS to start delivering prescriptions by drone. The two have confirmed that they completed their first paid home deliveries of prescriptions, hauling medicine to two homes (one of which was a retirement community) in Cary, North Carolina on November 1st. The drones flew autonomously and lowered the packages to the ground with a cable and winch, although there was a human operator ready to take control. This isn'tThis isn't the first paid delivery of any kind from UPS. The company has a deal to shuttle medical samples between WakeMed facilities in Raleigh. That's a commercial arrangement over areas that are under a company's control.
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