Google’s commercial drone delivery system has been approved for use in Australia, marking the first public approval of the deliveries following 18 months of trials, according to The Verge. At first, the deliveries will only be available to about 100 homes in the suburbs of Canberra, but will expand within the area in the coming months.

The drones will deliver products from local businesses, including food, coffee, and medication, “in minutes.” Regulations require that the drones avoid flying over main roads, or too close to people on the ground. They also are only permitted to fly in daylight hours between 7am and 8pm Monday through Friday, or between 8am and 8pm Sundays.  Safety instructions will be given to people living in the delivery area on how to receive packages from the drones

Peter Gibson, a spokesman for CASA, the Australian aviation authority, told The Guardian that the agency had examined drone safety, traffic management, pilot training, and operational plans in their approval.

“All those safety issues have been assessed so there are no risks to people on the ground, property or aircraft in the sky,” he said.

The service is operated by Wing, a drone delivery company owned by Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Wing projects that the drone deliveries will be worth up to AU$40 million (about $29 million US) by 2030, with one in four food deliveries being made by drones.

So far, a local coffee chain, bakery, Mexican fast food chain, and pharmacy have been involved in early trials in the area.

In achieving what regulators said was “very likely” a world first, Google’s project has beat Amazon in launching large-scale drone delivery. Amazon has conducted trial deliveries in the US and UK but hasn’t launched the program commercially.

A spokesperson from the company said last year that Amazon is still “committed to making our goal of delivering packages by drones in 30 minutes or less a reality.”

Wing has experimented with food deliveries to a small group of students at Virginia Tech, but canceled a planned partnership with Starbucks over disagreements on the handling of user data. Wing CEO James Burgess recently announced a trial program offering free 10-minute deliveries in Helsinki, Finland.

Wing’s drones use automated flight planning software, can fly at speeds up to 78 miles per hour, and are able to take off and land vertically.


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