updated 05:44 am EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Secret Google X project revealed as drone-based delivery system
Amazon is not the only company looking to use drones for deliveries, as Google has reportedly been testing its own version for the last two years. Tested in Australia due to more "progressive" drone rules, Google's Project Wing appears to be more for creating autonomous flying machines destined for disaster relief than for detail deliveries.
The drone uses a "blended wing" design instead of Amazon's "octocopter" system, according to the BBC and The Atlantic, with the 5 feet-wide craft's four electric propellers being used for the initial lift off the ground, switching to a horizontal position for more efficient flight. The entire craft weighs just under 19 pounds unladen, though it can only take a load of just over 3 pounds, suggesting it won't be used for larger Amazon-style deliveries just yet.
Google's solution for the delivery process is also drastically different from Amazon, with the drone able to stay high in the air without landing. The drone lowers the package attached to an "egg", which in turn is winched down from the air. The egg is able to detect if the package has reached ground level, safely detaching itself in the process, with the egg then winched back up before the drone flies back to base.
Originally, Project Wing was destined to be a way for defibrillator kits to be dispatched to heart attack victims ad quickly as possible, with the company's long term goal of using it for transporting medicines and batteries in areas affected by natural disasters, such as flooding and earthquakes. Google does suggest it could be used for home deliveries, though that may be quite a few years away.
While the Google X project pits the search company directly against Amazon in the field of drones, it also means the two will have to work together on the regulatory issues involved. Just as with its efforts to lobby regulators over self-driving cars, Google may do the same with the FAA and drones, something Amazon is already trying to manage.