Introducing the New and Improved Google Wing Drone: My Experience Witnessing This Drone Up Close and Personal
Last night, I had the honor of attending a media dinner in New York City to take an exclusive first look at the new and improved Google Wing drone on behalf of Droneblog.
It was an exciting glimpse into what Google has been up to with its drone technology and what this can mean for the drone industry as a whole.
I’m sure you’re eager to learn all about it, so let’s get right to it.
What is the Google Wing Drone? What does it do?
Google Wing was founded in 2012 as an offshoot of Google X (not to be confused with X, the platform formerly known as Twitter). It started deliveries two years after its creation, introducing operations in Ireland, Finland, Australia, and the United States.
The project entered Alphabet company status in 2018 when it graduated from Google X.
That brings us to today, the newer, larger Google Wing drone.
Wing has accomplished many deliveries since the service launched in 2014, over 350,000 and counting. As customers left feedback on the service and partners shared their insights, the team at Wing learned that most orders required two drones for delivery.
That inspired a question. What if, instead of launching two drones to the same place, Wing could do it in only one? The larger Wing was soon born.
What’s fascinating about the newer, bigger Wing isn’t that it can carry more cargo, simplifying deliveries. It’s that Wing builds off its existing Aircraft Library, testing configurations from earlier editions of the Wing that still meet FAA approval.
Wing has several partners at present, from Irish hospitals and healthcare brands to DoorDash in Australia and Walmart in the United States. Its US presence is especially strong in Dallas, and it plans to expand.
Given its extensive list of partners, Wing drones can deliver:
- Blood and medication (to hospitals and medical facilities)
- Grocery items
- Beauty products
- Baby items
- Pet supplies
- Household items
There are many everyday scenarios in which Wing drone delivery is convenient, such as:
- You’re making dinner and realize you forgot that one ingredient you need.
- You run out of diapers midway through the day and don’t want to load the baby into the car to replenish your supply (or can’t travel with the baby, like if you have one family vehicle and your spouse or partner is at work).
- You come down with the sniffles and want to take medication same-day to help you feel better.
- You want ultra-fresh produce.
- You’re getting ready for a big night out and wish you had a different shade of lipstick.
Wing drones can deliver in as little as 10 to 60 minutes, which is faster than same-day delivery from services like Amazon.
|Google Wing drone at a glance
|5-pound carrying limit (improved from 3 pounds)
|65 mile-an-hour cruising
|12-mile roundtrip range
|Delivery in 10 to 60 minutes
|Delivery within 6 miles of Dallas Walmarts
|Available for delivery 6 days a week
|Capable of delivering in inclement weather, including rain and wind
How does Wing drone delivery work?
Download the free Wing Drone Delivery App
Wing has a free app for US residents available on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Download it to begin requesting deliveries near you. You’ll need an account to use the app, which you can create in a matter of minutes.
Check if your home is eligible
Once you’re logged into the app, type in your home or business address (Wing delivers to both). Wing has expanded its service across the Dallas area between 2023 and 2024, but your home or office must be located within six miles of participating Walmarts to be eligible to use the drone delivery service.
Place an order through the app
Next, shop on Walmart’s app the way you usually do, placing an order for grocery or household items. Maybe you can even get a special treat for yourself. You’d be surprised how much you can order within Wing’s new five-pound carrying limit.
Wait for the order to arrive
After checking out and selecting drone delivery, Wing will produce an approximate delivery time. You can set your watch by this time; since Wing is all automated, its delivery estimates are very accurate.
You’ll receive a phone notification from the app indicating that the order is on its way. The Wing drone will give you several landing options to select from based on how clear the area is unless your home or property only has one suitable area.
Pick the landing area (as applicable) and wait.
Retrieve your order and enjoy
The Wing order will come down on a hook harnessed to a cord. While you can safely watch the drone land from a distance, you shouldn’t interfere with the Wing as it delivers your order. Don’t try to pull the order from the hook prematurely.
If you do, the hook is designed to come off. When I talked with the Wing team, they likened it to insects that lose their limbs when preyed on. The rest of the insect is fine, just as the Wing itself will continue flying to its next delivery.
Once you have your order in hand, you can enjoy it the same as you would any online delivery, just more expediently.
What are the advantages of the Google Wing drone?
The technology behind the Wing drone is awesome, and that’s putting it mildly. Backed by the power of Google, the Wing is forging a new frontier in drone use cases. So, while sure, you can’t fly it like your favorite DJI consumer drone, it does benefit you as a pilot, especially commercially.
The everyday consumer also gets lots of use out of Wing delivery. The Wing team told me that the first order from curious customers is usually a novelty item. They don’t quite understand the technology yet but are eager to try it out.
Then, once they see what Wing can do, they begin ordering everyday items with increasing frequency.
It’s no wonder, considering Wing’s immense capabilities like these.
We’re rapidly moving toward faster delivery when we order products and services online. Most people don’t have the patience for two-day shipping, which was once considered fast. Same-day deliveries are popping up more frequently from your favorite retailers, like Amazon, Walmart, and Target.
Receiving an order within 24 hours of placing it is fast, but Wing is even faster. You can put in an order and receive it within an hour, sometimes in as little as 10 minutes.
When you’re in the middle of cooking dinner but can’t proceed because you don’t have an ingredient you need, same-day delivery doesn’t do you as much good as Wing’s quick turnaround times.
The speed at which Wing flies is unachievable by delivery drivers.
Another factor on Wing’s side is convenience. With 141.7 million US residents buying groceries online in 2022, it’s clear that even when the COVID-19 pandemic ended, our reliance on avoiding grocery stores didn’t.
With most Americans spending 41 minutes at the grocery store each week, ordering online saves that time.
Of course, it’s not only groceries you can order online these days. You can buy everything from makeup to clothing. Buying these items online is also convenient. You will often have access to a greater selection of goods and sizes compared to shopping in a brick-and-mortar store.
How many of us have used DoorDash or Instacart and had a driver who was late, or who didn’t pick the right items you wanted? Maybe they forgot something.
Wing doesn’t make those kinds of careless mistakes, ensuring that if you order a specific brand or product, you get what you need and in the quantity you chose, without any misdirection or confusion.
If there’s one lasting change that came about from the COVID-19 period, it’s the reduced reliance on face-to-face communication when we don’t have to. Why pick up the phone and order a pizza when you can do it on a website or app instead?
While delivery services reduced interactivity during the pandemic, the option to meet with your driver and receive the order from them is now available again.
If you’d rather there be no humans involved in your order delivery, Wing is all automated and human-free.
By far, the biggest advantage of Wing is outside of its delivery capabilities. After all, those only benefit customers in limited areas, at least for now.
Wing is challenging regulations on drones and where they can be, introducing more use cases that prove that drones are anything but a nuisance in the sky.
The more changes Wing can pave the way for, the greater the benefits for all commercial drone pilots. More services like Wing can appear, expanding delivery options.
Limitations on Google Wing drone technology
I was so fascinated seeing the Wing drone and learning about what it’s capable of, but it’s only fair to present some challenges Wing has yet to surpass.
FAA and global drone laws are one of the biggest stumbling blocks Wing currently contends with. For example, while the drone can fly in inclement weather (which most commercial drones cannot do), it can’t operate at night.
Using its partnership with Walmart as an example, Wing can only deliver until 6:30 p.m. While the service expanded to offering Walmart deliveries six days a week, if you need something late in the evening, you’ll have to settle for another Walmart delivery service or wait until the next day.
When the original Wing debuted in Australia, it generated some noise complaints. That’s natural, as many drones are loud, especially on the scale of the Wing.
Now, in a bustling metropolitan area like Dallas, noise complaints might not be the end of the world. However, if Wing continues nationwide expansion, the noise complaints could become an issue.
Drone deliveries and the future – Satisfying our need for instant gratification
We live in an age where if we want something right this minute, we can usually get it. Better yet, there’s no longer a need to visit a brick-and-mortar store to make it happen. One of the biggest holdovers from the pandemic days is fast deliveries, a service that the Google Wing has taken and accelerated.
The Wing’s advancements represent an exciting time to be involved in drones. UAVs can already achieve so much, from filming Hollywood blockbusters to overseeing construction sites, surveying dangerous areas like mines, touring fire-ravaged homes for insurance purposes, and fertilizing crops.
What Wing has done and continues to do is certainly a major step in the right direction. Although there have been some kinks to work out with drone delivery in general, we’re now living in an age where it’s not only possible but happening all the time.
I was very impressed by what I saw from Wing, but I can’t help but think of how the company has a long road ahead of it, even with Google backing. Since the media event was in New York City, I can use that as an example.
NYC prohibits recreational and commercial drones. What will it take for regulations in this major city to change so Wing can deliver orders there?
That’s a question no one yet has the answer to. However, that’s the thing about change. It usually comes on fast. 2024 could be the year Wing breaks down barriers and expands drone delivery to previously unreachable areas. We’d all benefit if it does!