Google’s secret lab working on swift UAVs
By The Associated Press
Aug. 29, 2014, San Francisco, Ca. - Google's secretive research laboratory is trying to build a fleet of drones designed to bypass earthbound traffic so packages can be delivered to people more quickly.
By The Associated Press
The ambitious program announced Thursday escalates Google's
technological arms race with rival Amazon.com Inc., which also is
experimenting with self-flying vehicles to carry merchandise bought by
customers of its online store.
Amazon is mounting its own challenges to
Google in online video, digital advertising and mobile computing in a
battle that also involves Apple Inc.
Google Inc. calls its foray into drones "Project Wing."
Although Google expects it to take
several more years before its fleet of drones is fully operational, the
company says test flights in Australia delivered a first aid kit, candy
bars, dog treats and water to two farmers after travelling a distance of
roughly one kilometre, or just over a half mile, two weeks ago.
Google's video of the test flight, set to the strains of the 1969 song
"Spirit In The Sky," can be seen at
Besides perfecting their aerial
technology, Google and Amazon still need to gain government approval to
fly commercial drones in many countries, including the U.S. Amazon last
month asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to expand
its drone testing. The FAA currently allows hobbyists and model
aircraft makers to fly drones, but commercial use is mostly banned.
Project Wing is the latest
venture to emerge from Google's "X'' lab, which has also been working
on self-driving cars as well as other far-flung innovations that company
CEO Larry Page likens to "moonshots" that push the technological
envelope. The lab's other handiwork includes Internet-connected eyewear
called Google Glass, Internet-beaming balloons called Project Loon and a
high-tech contact lens that monitors glucose levels in diabetics.
Google says it is striving to improve
society through the X's lab's research, but the Glass device has faced
criticism from privacy watchdogs leery of the product's ability to
secretly record video and take pictures. Investors also have
periodically expressed frustration with the amount of money that Google
has been pouring into the X lab without any guarantee the products will
ever pay off.
A team led by Massachusetts Institute of
Technology aeronautics professor Nick Roy already has been working on
Project Wing for two years, according to Google. The Mountain View,
California, company didn't disclose how much the project has cost.
Drones clearly could help
Google expand an existing service that delivers goods purchased online
on the day that they were ordered. Google so far is offering the
same-day delivery service by automobiles in parts of the San Francisco
Bay Area, Los Angeles and New York.
"Self-flying vehicles could open up
entirely new approaches to moving goods, including options that are
cheaper, faster, less wasteful and more environmentally sensitive than
what's possible today," Google said in a pamphlet outlining Project
Google, though, seems to see its drones
as something more than another step in e-commerce delivery. The aerial
vehicles also could make it easier for people to share certain items,
such as a power drill, that they may only need periodically and carry
emergency supplies to areas damaged by earthquakes, hurricanes and other
natural catastrophes, according to Google's Project Wing pamphlet.