Amazon isn’t the only company that wants to create a drone-based delivery system, nor is it the first to began developing and testing such a system. Google has been working on something known as Project Wing for about for years now under Google X, the division of the company that’s responsible for most of its “moonshots.” Unfortunately, strict regulations for the use of commercial drones in the United States has made it difficult for Google to test its drone delivery system in the country, but Google has managed to get around these restrictions with help from NASA.
Google has been quietly testing its drone delivery program in US airspace and is planning further tests in rural California after striking a deal with Nasa, the Guardian has learned. Documents seen by the Guardian also reveal technical details of Google’s drone, which is capable of speeds of up to 100 mph and weighs less than 25kg (55lb). The papers also reveal Google’s safety plans should a drone lose contact with its operator. The US currently has a blanket ban on the commercial operation of unmanned aircraft. When Google revealed its experimental delivery drones, code-named Project Wing, a year ago, a promotional video showed a farmer in rural Australia receiving a packet of dog treats by air. Companies wanting to take to America’s spacious skies need special permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), involving onerous requirements such as having a licensed pilot control the drone. However, documents show Google has been skirting these rules by flying its Project Wing aircraft over private land in the US in cooperation with Nasa. For more than a year, Google has been quietly operating its drones in America under Nasa’s Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA), a program originally intended for government agencies.