Wing drone delivery is adding complex route management and self-loading capability for its drone delivery fleet that will make it “capable of handling tens of millions of deliveries for millions of consumers by mid 2024”, says CEO Adam Woodworth in a press release.

Presently, The company is trialling its drone delivery at low to medium scale in 10 global locations, including Queensland, Australia, Helsinki, Finland and the Dallas-Fort Worth region, U.S. Wing struck 100,000 total drone deliveries two years ago, 300,000 a year later and will surpass 500,000 this year. These craft are transporting up to 1,000 packages a day in a delivery area of 100,000 or more people.

Wing has worked in recent years to enable its drone delivery “to integrate seamlessly” with existing delivery infrastructure for restaurants and retailers. Delivery services are being launched from parking lots and rooftops while being integrated with well-known delivery apps. Now the company is adding hands-free pickup and smarter drone management in preparation for scaling the service.

Adam Woodworth

Woodworth comments, “Up to this point, the industry has been fixated on drones themselves — designing, testing, and iterating on aircraft, rather than finding the best way to harness an entire fleet for efficient delivery. We see drone delivery at scale looking more like an efficient data network than a traditional transportation system.”

He continues, “As with many other areas of technology, from data centres to smartphones, the physical hardware is only as useful as the software and logistics networks that make it meaningful for organisations and their customers.”

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Wing’s vision is this: Its drones won’t just fly point-to-point routes i.e move from a hub (Wing calls them “nests”) to a retailer, pick up a package, deliver it and fly back to the nest. Rather, they will follow complex and ever-changing routes as needs change, picking up, dropping off, recharging when necessary at various hubs, and acting, for all intents and purposes, like a Uber in the skies that never needs to go “home.”

To achieve this science fiction dream, Wing are introducing a key new component called “Autoloaders,” that allow retail staff to pre-load a delivery package and then walk away. This is held in the autoloader, a tiny tower with V-shaped arms that fits in part of a parking space, until a drone comes by and autonomously picks it up.

A Wing spokesperson told, “Our automated network will select a drone to retrieve the package and deliver it to a customer, freeing employees from needing to wait for a drone to arrive in order to load the package. For a retailer, this will make loading drones as simple as handing it to a waiting delivery driver.”

The network is managed by logistics automation software that constantly allocates hardware resources at a city or metro-wide scale. The software manages three basic hardware elements: Delivery drones; “Pads or Nests” where drones takeoff, land, and recharge their batteries between trips; and AutoLoaders that allow retailers to preload packages for automatic pickup.

The design of Wing’s drones help this “integrated multi-hop system” as they are light in weight and manoeuvrable with a good battery charge length, allowing the company “to go big” with the dream of achieving “tens of millions of deliveries for millions of customers.”

Woodworth points out, “Building drone delivery into the last mile can be as simple as ordering drones, turning them on, and letting them connect to the network, while the delivery network automates compliance with regulation.”

Wing is targeting the middle of 2024 for this kind of scale, touting “store to door” delivery times of 15 minutes at low cost and with 50 times greater efficiency than fuel-powered delivery cars and trucks.

But there is one major problem.

Will the FAA and EASA regulators be ready for such a major breakthrough in drone delivery leaving aside the basic BVLOS requirement?

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(Top image: Wing)