Alphabet subsidiary Wing, a company that developed a drone system capable of delivering small packages, has announced an upcoming pilot program that will conduct some deliveries for Walgreens and FedEx. The pilot program will start next month in Christiansburg, Virginia, where Wing says it will use this opportunity to ‘explore’ things like offering better access to health care products, opening new doors for local businesses, and presenting a last-mile delivery option.
Wing notes it was the first drone company to get FAA certification as an air carrier, a milestone that took place earlier this year. With that certification, Wing is allowed to deliver commercial goods to others who are located miles away — too far away for the operator to physically see the vehicle. The company’s pilot program is taking place under the US DOT’s Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program.
The trial deliveries will require Christiansburg residents to opt in to receiving their packages by drone, otherwise they’ll get them using standard delivery vehicles. The drone deliveries are only available for packages that meet certain requirements.
When it comes to Walgreens, customers who opt in to the program can get drone deliveries on products like drinks, foods, OTC medication, health and wellness products, and other convenience goods. The deliveries are offered on-demand, meaning they’ll be packaged and put in the air within minutes of the orders being placed.
FedEx, meanwhile, will use Wing to deliver certain packages to customers who live within the designated Christiansburg delivery zones. There’s no guarantee that either company will choose to use drone deliveries in the future, but this marks an important step for the budding industry, one that may open the door to widespread on-demand product deliveries that don’t increase road congestion or air pollution.