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Opportunity Soars as Drone Delivery Services Take Flight

April 26, 2022

In the age of automation and same-day delivery, the race for companies to develop widespread, reliable package dropoff via drones has only just begun. With years of development tucked into the design and testing grounds, drone services are finally being implemented and utilized by the public. However, these tryouts have been met with varying degrees of success.

Reporter Timothy B. Lee in a piece for arstechnica.com states, “Earlier this month, Google’s sister company, Wing, began offering a drone delivery service in the Dallas suburbs of Frisco and Little Elm. Wing drones take off from ‘nests’ in two Walgreens parking lots to deliver things like health products or ice cream to nearby customers. Wing describes it as ‘the first ever commercial drone delivery service in a major US metropolitan area.’”

So far, Wing’s drone delivery service has been an all-around victory. With successful safety measures, impressive speed both in flight and trade-off, and a high demand for the service, it’s no wonder that the company recently crossed their 200,000 delivery mark.

“Wing has obtained [a Federal Aviation Administration (FFA)] waiver allowing it to fly beyond the visual line of sight. That allows Wing to offer deliveries as far as four miles away from a drone’s home base. Wing’s waiver also allows flights over people. This allows drones to pick up a new package by hovering about 23 feet (seven meters) in the air and extending a tether down to the ground.”

From order to drop off, interaction with delivery workers or the drone itself is never necessary on the patron’s part, meaning service is quick, easy, and pandemic-approved.

Walmart’s “DroneUp” has seen similar success in its startup. Though the drones are slower and heavier than the ones from Wing, and the company has a harder time obtaining waivers from the FFA, their safety and satisfaction rate has been stellar.

“FAA regulations prohibit a drone from flying over people or moving vehicles. [Tom Walker, founder of DroneUp] says that DroneUp’s aircraft have ‘the ability to dynamically route around areas where [people and moving vehicles] might be, and also have sensors that let us know where people are on the ground.’ The drones also have multiple redundancies to help ensure that the failure of any one component won’t cause it to crash.”

Fast, smart, and safe, DroneUp is customer-approved and ready to grow their services. Walmart plans to expand the operation from 200 to 600 people this year, with a significant percentage of that new workforce being comprised of drone operators. 

Despite the success of Walmart’s DroneUp and Google’s Wing, not all big-brand drone delivery services have had the same smooth sailing with their debuts. Amazon has yet to create an approved drone, much less implement a widespread system. Heavy and unsafe, the online retail giant's drones have not been able to meet FFA standards.

“An article in Wired last year described the turmoil in the UK branch of Amazon’s drone project. Amazon started testing delivery drones in the UK in 2016, but by 2021 people were telling Wired that the program was “‘“collapsing inwards,” “dysfunctional,” and resembled “organised chaos” run by managers that were “detached from reality,”’” recounts Lee.

Even if a widespread rollout of delivery drones hasn't become reality quite yet, there is no doubt it will be soon with our rapidly evolving technology. And when those billion dollar retail giants call for skilled experts to design, built, test, and operate their drones, will you be ready?

Capitol Technology University offers many opportunities in unmanned systems, where you can learn indispensable, industry-ready knowledge and prepare to answer the call for skilled aviation experts.

To learn more about these programs as well as our wide breadth of other STEM fields of study, visit captechu.edu and peruse the various courses and degrees offered. Many courses are available both on campus and online. For more information, contact admissions@captechu.edu.