Google has been secretly making its own delivery drones

Newly-outed Project Wing shows that Google has been putting as much thought into drones as it has into self-driving cars

Not to be outdone by Amazon, Google is making its own drone army.

The Atlantic has revealed that Google's long-range research lab Google X is working on a drone delivery program called Project Wing.

Google's been testing its drones in Australia, where policies for unmanned, remote aircraft are bit looser than the US; after all, regulatory issues have for the moment stymied Amazon's big push at drone deliveries.

Special delivery

At first glance, Google's delivery drone looks a lot like you'd imagine a drone to be - a small remote-controlled plane. But the design is a little unusual; Google's drone is dubbed a "tail sitter", combining aspects of a plane and helicopter. It takes off vertically but to fly around, it rotates to a horizontal position. To deliver packages, it hovers above a target location and releases a tether which contains both the package and what Google calls an "egg".

Google Project Wing

The purpose of the egg, a compact package of electronics, is to detect whether or not the package has landed on the ground. Once done, the egg detaches from the package and is pulled back up into the drone.

An unsual solution, perhaps, but one that Google came to after two years of testing, all overseen by MIT roboticist Nick Roy. Trying to ensure that the package reached its intended recipient proved challenging with everything from mini parachutes to ballistic drops ('firing packages out of the drone) being tested. Hilariously enough, a ballistics drop test almost ended up in the package hitting Sergey Brin and that idea was quickly killed.

Google is putting serious effort into building a delivery drone, envisioning a future where instead of days, deliveries could take hours, perhaps minutes. At present, regulatory stumbling blocks in the US are making drone deliveries a tough proposition; but with Google and Amazon lobbying for the right to use drones, flying robot postmen look like the future of delivery.

READ MORE: Google’s self-driving car: two seats, no steering wheel and no brake pedal

[Source: The Atlantic]

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