Google X, the tech giant’s “moonshot” lab, has spent the last two years building an aerial drone that can deliver goods across the country. The company calls the effort Project Wing.
Revealed today in a story from The Atlantic, the project is reminiscent of work underway at Amazon.com. Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos revealed the retailer’s drone ambitions this past holiday shopping season during an appearance on the popular TV news magazine 60 Minutes.
“Self-flying vehicles could open up entirely new approaches to moving things around—including options that are faster, cheaper, less wasteful, and more environmentally sensitive than the way we do things today,” a Google spokesperson said in an email to WIRED.
According the company, the Project Wing team recently tested its drone prototypes in Australia, delivering packages to a pair of local farmers. The company said it would not agree to additional interviews about the project. “The vehicle you see in our video is more a research vehicle than an indication of a final decision or direction—as we figure out exactly what our service will deliver and where and why, we will look at a variety of vehicle options (both home-made and off-the-shelf),” the spokesperson said.
A white paper released by the company says that the Google X team first discussed the idea of building flying vehicles in 2011, and that in July 2012, Nick Roy, of the MIT Aeronautics & Astronautics program, joined the company to explore the possibilities. Originally, the paper says, the aim was to use drones to deliver defibrillators to heart attack victims.