Speaking at an air traffic control convention near Washington, David Vos, leader of Google’s Project Wing initiative, says the company is in talks with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and others to build an air traffic control system to monitor and coordinate drone flights under 500 feet.
“Our goal is to have commercial business up and running in 2017,” Vos told the audience.
That’s a pretty lofty goal, especially since the FAA has yet to finalize the rules for commercial drone operations, which are expected to be published early in 2016. But if anyone has the know-how and pull to make this happen, it’s Vos; he’s co-chair of the 25-member drone task force that’s been put together to advise the FAA advise on its proposed drone registration rules. The task force, which is meeting is meeting Nov. 3-5 and has a final deadline of Nov. 20 to complete its recommendations.
“We’re pretty much on a campaign here, working with the FAA, working with the small UAV community and the aviation community at large, to move things along,” he said.
Two years after initial research began, Project Wing was announced in August 2014 with a YouTube video showing a field test of its most viable prototype in Australia. The prototype flown was 4.9 feet wide and 2.6 feet tall, sharing the same four-propeller quadcopter design as popular consumer drones.
Recently, Sequoia Capital venture capitalist Aaref Hilaly tweeted a video (watch below) that shows Google’s drone hovering and lowering a package to the floor.
— Aaref Hilaly (@aaref) October 19, 2015
Amazon and Walmart are also both working on drone delivery systems. If approved by the FAA, Walmart will test drones for grocery pickup, a service it recently expanded and plans to offer in 43 markets next year. The retailer will also test drone delivery for customers at Walmart facilities and in small residential neighborhoods. The test would see if a drone could be deployed from a truck “to safely deliver a package at a home and then return safely to the same.”