28 March 2019

Drone delivery service set for take-off after Mitchell base approved

| Ian Bushnell
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Wing’s Mitchell warehouse in Vicars Street. Photo: George Tsotsos.

Plans for a drone delivery service in Gungahlin have taken a step forward with the planning authority approving a development application for Wing’s warehouse base in Mitchell.

Alphabet subsidiary Wing, which last year trialled a drone service in Canberra’s south in Bonython, intends to use the 9600m2 site in Vicars Street as its first long-term base of operations.

The warehouse requires a few slight modifications so it can be made into a drone delivery facility, including retrofitting to accommodate Wing’s drones and drone charging pads.

The approval comes with conditions including complying with any noise management or noise standards/requirements enforced by the federal regulator, Airservices Australia.

Noise was a key issue during the Bonython trial and Wing adjusted its propeller systems so its drones did not produce the high-pitched whine that has been the subject of so much criticism.

Wing may also have to apply separately for a lease variation as the DA suggested a use of the site that may not be consistent with the Crown Lease.

A Wing spokesperson said: “Wing will meet the requirements of the development approval for our Mitchell site. We are looking forward to bringing Wing’s drone delivery service to the Gungahlin community and showcasing the future of faster, safer and more environmentally responsible delivery.”

The company has initiated the approval process with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Wing says that operating in a properly-zoned industrial area will allow it to provide a better service to local customers and to create more economic opportunities for local businesses while showcasing what a future of faster, safer and more environmentally-responsible delivery service looks like.

A render of the drone delivery facility from the DA.

Wing also plans to co-locate its drone operations at the Mitchell site with a small number of food merchants, health and over-the-counter medicine merchants, as well as small businesses from the Mitchell and Gungahlin area. This required a change to the Building Classification from Class 7b (warehouse) to Class 8 (factory).

“Co-locating these merchants next to a drone operating area will allow Wing to deliver goods to customers more quickly, minimising drone flight times, and allow Canberra businesses to reach customers in a new way,” Wing says.

Other modifications include minor amendments to the primary façade fronting Vicars Street, reducing the existing plant room/store, constructing a new pump room and above ground water tank, relocating and enlarging the waste enclosure and installing additional site services.

Drones operating out of the Mitchell base will initially service households in the surrounding suburbs of Franklin, Crace, Palmerston, Harrison and Gungahlin.

Wing said in its submission to the Legislative Assembly inquiry that it was committed to continuing to work with Commonwealth and ACT regulators to ensure the safe integration of unmanned aircraft into the airspace, and to work closely with communities to manage and reduce any associated impacts.

“Wing strongly believes that by working together with regulators and communities, we can improve access to services, open up new economic opportunities, and better connect our cities.”

Wing is expected to unveil soon its new merchant partners and the products it will be delivering in its service area. It will also be ramping up its community engagement.

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