Google working on delivery drones

Add delivery drones to the list of products being developed by the Google X (NASDAQ:GOOG) long-term R&D division. In an in-depth column, The Atlantic reports Google has carried out over 30 test flights for its drone initiative, known as Project Wing, and hopes its drones can eventually be used by its same-day delivery service to deliver products within minutes.

Google, whose effort has been ongoing for 2 years, has opted for an unconventional aircraft design called a tail-sitter. It's described as "a hybrid of a plane and a helicopter that takes off vertically, then rotates to a horizontal position for flying around." By contrast, Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Prime Air delivery drones rely on 8 helicopter-like propellers.

Google's drones lower products to the ground using a tether featuring "a little bundle of electronics" at the end. The electronics detect when a package hits the ground, and then detach and are pulled back up.

The Atlantic doesn't shy away from the fact plenty of reliability and safety questions remain, as do nuts-and-bolts hardware issues such as improving battery life and reducing noise. Google is said to be "in the very early days of developing a mature, reliable detect-and-avoid system."

Wing is headed by MIT roboticist Nick Roy. Over the last 12 months, Google has bought leading military robot maker Boston Dynamics, solar-powered drone maker Titan Aerospace (meant to further Google's Web connectivity and imagery efforts), A.I. tech developer DeepMind, and hardware engineering/design firm Gecko Design.

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Comments (19)
  • thotdoc
    , contributor
    Comments (2038) | Send Message
    More money than sense.
    28 Aug 2014, 07:27 PM Reply Like
  • Stone Fox Capital
    , contributor
    Comments (10311) | Send Message
    No doubt... sure glad they aren't wasting my money.
    28 Aug 2014, 08:23 PM Reply Like
  • Tack
    , contributor
    Comments (16556) | Send Message
    I can imagine the very same words being muttered by someone, sitting on the back of a horse, watching one of the the first automobiles bounce down a dirt road.
    29 Aug 2014, 12:00 AM Reply Like
  • AnAvgJoe
    , contributor
    Comments (564) | Send Message
    At least Google has earnings they can actually spend on this, unlike AMZN.
    29 Aug 2014, 08:26 AM Reply Like
  • MEKhoury
    , contributor
    Comments (408) | Send Message


    Exactly right.
    29 Aug 2014, 12:18 PM Reply Like
    , contributor
    Comments (8) | Send Message
    im sure when edison was talking about lightning up the country, similar naysayers were around
    28 Aug 2014, 08:48 PM Reply Like
  • King Rat
    , contributor
    Comments (1904) | Send Message
    A waste of time and money? Maybe. Yet from this or from Amazon's musings perhaps we shall eventually see improved automation of delivery, scanning, or sorting methods.


    Both companies may know that solving the problem of delivery drones may be impossible in the short term. The real goal may be the IP gained while attempting to solve that problem.
    28 Aug 2014, 09:23 PM Reply Like
  • DanoX
    , contributor
    Comments (3599) | Send Message
    Hee Hee Hee!
    28 Aug 2014, 09:45 PM Reply Like
  • David at Imperial Beach
    , contributor
    Comments (4381) | Send Message
    Unlike Amazon, Google has other uses for drones if package delivery service doesn't pan out. Google could very easily use drones to take very high quality pictures of neighborhoods and map routes and fill in missing or poor quality data from satellite images.
    28 Aug 2014, 09:49 PM Reply Like
  • John2374
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    I like the comment because it applies to new markets, like the UAS market where all know the commercialization of UAS's is happening and all tripping over themselves to get in the media (not knowing what will be in compliance or not). Funny to watch. For a serious team and high caliper (Compliant) solution today, see the Genesis Aerial Systems guy's....they have already flown hundreds of flights (in and out of the US) and are making money.....just have to be smart about where to use these newly available capabilities (as they have been in existence for many, many years). Making money from them requires more than a bunch of media hype....
    29 Aug 2014, 04:42 AM Reply Like
  • rambler1
    , contributor
    Comments (1070) | Send Message
    Who's responsible when they crash through someone's window or into a moving car? How many people will be out there with a BB-gun or sling-shot trying to shoot them down.
    28 Aug 2014, 10:45 PM Reply Like
  • Ed Porter
    , contributor
    Comments (715) | Send Message
    "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it"....


    ... unfortunately we may have spent a billion in the process...
    28 Aug 2014, 11:58 PM Reply Like
  • ronfab1
    , contributor
    Comments (958) | Send Message
    Exactly, dumbest idea ever….. bunch of drones delivering product. How do they get up onto your front porch under the roof to leave the package in plain sight of the street on swing chair INSTEAD of behind the swing chair like any reasonable person would. UPS and Fed Express drivers ….. talking to you.


    But the point is no joke with these things in the air all the time & possibilities for all kinds of things to go wrong. And where do they drop the merchandise? Heard on radio they might have to hover and lower with some cord / cable / ? into customer's hands which requires him to get notice it's almost there and then make sure to be outside looking UP. How long will it "hover" if he's a couple minutes late.
    31 Aug 2014, 12:17 PM Reply Like
  • Zipper0
    , contributor
    Comments (1743) | Send Message
    Google will need the mother of all drones to try to lift Google's stock price from the massive collapse it's about to experience. All of Google's new projects, esp. cloud data centers, are cash flow negative and, even if eventually successful a decade from now, will have far lower margins and far higher capex requirements than core search, which is a one-of-a-kind business blessed with both high profitability and low capex needs. In addition, Google has a 50x multiple on free cash flow now because capex has skyrocketed over the past two years and Google's top-line revenue growth has slowed significantly in the past two years. Top-line revenue this year will be just 9% higher than it was last year ($65 bil. this year vs. $60 bil. last year). Slowing revenues, skyrocketing capex, and a 50x multiple on FCF remind me of CSCO during the Nasdaq Bubble right before it collapsed.
    29 Aug 2014, 12:20 AM Reply Like
  • Hardog
    , contributor
    Comments (17466) | Send Message
    This could absolutely put a dent in AMZN drones.
    I love the AMZN site and deals but despise the Co.
    29 Aug 2014, 12:15 PM Reply Like
  • DWBowers
    , contributor
    Comments (1301) | Send Message
    Google and Amazon are like circus sideshows. They'll do anything for attention.


    Drones are not likely ever to be used on a large scale for customer deliveries. Our skies would be black with the number of drones carrying packages. This is idea is ridiculous!


    Amazon and Google are both severely overpriced stocks!
    29 Aug 2014, 02:20 PM Reply Like
  • Pepo2012
    , contributor
    Comments (74) | Send Message
    It will work when it's developed by Apple inc!
    29 Aug 2014, 11:58 PM Reply Like
  • AnAvgJoe
    , contributor
    Comments (564) | Send Message
    Introducing the iDrone Air...
    30 Aug 2014, 09:29 AM Reply Like
  • RobertLeh
    , contributor
    Comments (339) | Send Message
    All these pet projects clearly signal Google is bored by its ads monopoly, loses focus and is spreading itself too thin. Too many warning signs for me to be a long-term investor.
    1 Sep 2014, 06:00 PM Reply Like
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