Soon, drones will be buzzing around Dallas-Fort Worth, with small containers filled with Tylenol and Band-Aids. Wing, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, is bringing its drone delivery service to Texas City, its first densely populated market.
Wing is starting small, making deliveries from a single Walgreens to the city of Frisco and the town of Little Elm. The company says it will use its new operating model, in which small shipping containers parked next to the store act as little hangers from which Wing’s drones will be deployed. Walgreens employees, rather than Wing technicians, will receive training on how to place packages on the company’s drones.
Drone deliveries were supposed to revolutionize the movement of goods in cities, with companies like Amazon and Uber promising to establish large-scale operations in the near future. Instead, the technology has focused primarily on small-scale experiments, delivering vaccines and blood to remote locations. In the US, drone delivery has generally been limited to smaller cities, where land use is less crowded and complex. And some companies have failed in their progress, with Amazon’s UK program laying off dozens of employees.
Wing has been able to rack up a string of minor hits, recently completing its 100,000th installment while operating in three countries: the United States, Finland and Australia. Its greatest success has been in Logan, Australia: a suburb of Brisbane where more than 50,000 of its total deliveries have been made.
Wing aims to grow even faster with its launch in Dallas. In addition to Walgreens, the company will establish a facility at Frisco Station, a mixed-use development and a local tourist destination north of Dallas. That facility will have delivery capabilities and, according to Wing, “will initially be dedicated to exploring new use cases, community demonstrations and public tours.”
Wing’s drones can operate as fixed-wing aircraft and floating helicopters. Unlike Amazon’s delivery drones, the aircraft also doesn’t need to land to drop off goods. Wing’s ships fly to their location, descend to a height of 23 feet (seven meters), and then lower their packages on a strap, automatically dropping them to the ground.