Alphabet's Wing division has announced that it's launching a drone delivery service in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) metroplex on April 7th. "With this service, the DFW area will be the largest metro in the world, and the first in the United States, with access to on-demand drone delivery," a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Wing's primary launch customer is Walgreens, which will deliver health and wellness products directly to customer's homes. For that, it will use a new operational model where drones are staged at one of its own store parking lots, rather than a Wing facility. It will also be delivering ice cream from Blue Bell Creameries, Easyvet prescription pet medications (yep) and first aid kits from Texas Health.
"This will be America’s most scalable drone delivery operation to date, as Walgreens team members will process their own orders and load packages onto drones themselves – while Wing oversees the delivery from a remote location," the company said.
In a press release and video (above) from last year, Wing explained exactly how that would work. "The aircraft will arrive in small containers that serve as tiny hangars, allowing each store to quickly and easily deploy a small, dedicated fleet from its parking lot, on its roof, or in small spaces adjacent to the building."
Wing uses a hybrid multi-rotor/fixed-wing drone of its own design. It can carry packages no heavier than 1.5kg (3.3 pounds) on round trips up to around 10km (6 miles) away. The drones are autonomous, but are monitored by pilots who can take control if something goes awry. There are redundant motors, batteries and navigation systems to help prevent accidents.
Wing has been doing drone deliveries in Australia (its launch market) since early 2019, and started making drones deliveries in the US later that year. The company noted that it has made 200,000 real deliveries to date, but those were largely done in smaller communities — so the city launch is a big deal. "This is an important milestone for Wing and drone delivery in the US," the company said in a press release.
Deliveries will start on April 7th for "tens of thousands" of homes in Frisco and Little Elm, both north of Dallas. "I do want to set clear expectations: not everyone who lives within range of our drones will be able to order on Day 1. We’re going to invite customers in groups to make sure everyone has a good first experience with drone delivery," said Wing CTO Adam Woodworth.