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Alphabet partners with local library to deliver books to students

Wing, a subsidiary of Alphabet, is providing the drones.
Marc DeAngelis
June 12, 2020
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Schools and libraries have been closed for months, but some kids aren’t going to get away with playing video games all summer. Kelly Passek -- a middle school librarian in Montgomery County, Virginia -- is sending out summer reading via drones. After using the quadcopters from Wing to get some home essentials, she realized that she could use the service to literally drop some knowledge on local students.

Passek does have to resort to some manual labor to get books to kids, though. She takes requests via a Google Form, then packs up the books and drops them off at Wing’s facility. Wing’s drones can carry payloads of up to three pounds, so paperbacks shouldn’t be an issue, but hefty tomes may not be an option. Eligible students in the Montgomery County public school system can request over 150,000 books from the library, and the airborne delivery is free of charge.

Wing has been dropping off small goods at customers’ doors since 2014, but the service is limited to just a handful of towns. The drone delivery industry is still a long ways off from Amazon’s 2013 proof-of-concept video that appeared in 60 Minutes. Either way, getting books to students is a laudable and novel use of the technology, especially during a global pandemic. As Thomas Pynchon once wrote, “A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.”

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