Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has approved the delivery of food and non-prescription medicines to homes in northern Canberra using remotely piloted aircraft, more commonly known as drones.
The green light for Wing Aviation, part of US-based company X that was founded by Alphabet (which owns Google), comes after an 18-month trial that involved 3,000 deliveries to homes in Bonython and Fernleigh Park in the Australia Capital Territory and Royalla just across the border in New South Wales.
CASA said in a statement on its website it was satisfied Wing Aviation’s operation met an “acceptable level of safety”.
“Wing were required to submit a safety case to CASA as part of their application process which included information about the reliability of the drones,” CASA said.
“Following an assessment of the safety case, we have permitted Wing to operate over North Canberra and in closer proximity to a person, than our regulations would normally permit.
“They have satisfied us that their operation meets an acceptable level of safety.”
CASA said Wing would be permitted to make deliveries between 0700 and 2000 between Monday and Saturday, as well as between 0800 and 2000 on Sundays and public holidays.
Further, the service will initially be restricted to 100 eligible homes in Gungahlin, which is located north of the Canberra central business district.
The aviation safety regulator said Wing was expected to over time introduce more homes for service.
Wing said in a statement on its website there were seven companies offering deliveries at launch – Kickstart Expresso, Capital Chemist, Pure Gelato, Jasper + Myrtle, Bakers Delight, Guzman Y Gomez, and Drummond Golf.
“Whether you’re a parent with a sick child at home and have run out of baby paracetamol, a busy professional who forgot to pick up fresh bread during your regular weekly shop, or you simply just want to order your morning flat white without the hassle of having to drive to the cafe, Wing has teamed up with local Canberra businesses to give customers the opportunity to have a range of goods delivered in a handful of minutes,” Wing said.
The company was also aiming to raise awareness of the drone delivery service through its engagement with the local community and stakeholders. This included hosting community information stalls and delivery demonstrations in the weeks ahead.
“Wing strongly believes that by working together with local policymakers, regulators, and communities, we can improve access to services, open up new economic opportunities, and better connect our cities,” the company said.
“We look forward to continuing this dialogue with the Canberra community as we expand Wing’s service.”
While the system is automated, CASA said a licensed drone pilot would always be at the helm.
“While an accident is unlikely to occur, pilots will know instantly if any of their drones operate outside of a standard mission. If this happens, the operator will decide if the safest course of action is to the land the aircraft, rather than continue the flight,” CASA said.
“In the unlikely event the drone encounters a problem, it is designed to automatically land very slowly. The aircraft are equipped with flashing strobe lights.”
While there have been some community concerns about noise and privacy, CASA said these two issues were “not in our remit”.
VIDEO: A look at Project Wing from the The Moonshot Factory’s YouTube channel.