Google on Thursday announced that it has been testing a small fleet of drones in the Australian outback, looking into ways to use self-flying robots to deliver goods. The drones, in development by Google’s “moonshot” laboratory Google X, is called Project Wing. The company has been looking into developing a delivery service for two years but only began tests of the self-flying vehicles in mid-August.
The drones fly between a range of approximately 130-195 feet — far above houses and the standard tree line, the company said. So far, the company says that it’s run more than 30 successful delivery flights, carrying items such as a first aid kit, water bottle and cattle vaccine to Australian farmers. One flight, the company said, was about 1 km (.62 miles) away.
“When you can get something near-instantly, it changes how you think about it,” Google said in press materials. “Think of the mom stuck at home with two sick kids, the hiker who’s met a poisonous snake, or the farmer out in the field with a sick animal. It could also open up new models for sharing goods rather than owning them – who needs a power drill for more than eight minutes a year?”
Google’s experimental projects division, Google X, has become a hotbed of curiosities and “moon shots,” to use CEO Larry Page’s term, of ambitious but secretive skunkworks projects that could change the world — or fail.
The first Google X project burst into the news before Google X itself had been publicly named. The Self-Driving Car project was born out of the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, and now is expected to be road-ready sometime between 2017 and 2020.
Since then, other projects have been revealed, including Google Glass, Project Loon’s Internet-broadcasting hot air balloons, a contact lens that can monitor blood glucose levels, a medical records analysis project, a wind-power project, and a computer network that replicates the architecture of the human brain.
The company also toyed with a number of projects that it concluded were duds, including a space elevator, jetpack, teleportation, and hoverboard — think “Back to the Future II.”