Canberra’s drone delivery operator is poised to spread its wings in Gungahlin as it launches a new, even quieter aircraft into service.
Last year as the pandemic hit, Wing’s delivery service boomed, growing to five times that of 2019 as more people stayed home and limiting close contact became important. That growth has been sustained even with an easing of restrictions.
Wing spokesperson Jesse Suskin said the world-leading drone delivery operation had experienced a lot of growth, including expanding its product range and adding new businesses.
“Once COVID-19 started, and people found themselves at home, working from home or schooling from home, delivery with no contact in a few minutes was very appealing,” he said.
“In the first few months of 2021, we’ve already delivered more than 50 per cent of the total number of orders delivered in Canberra in 2020.”
While Wing does not reveal flight data, he said the services in Gungahlin and Logan City in southeast Queensland had thousands of customers, had made tens of thousands of deliveries, and flew thousands of deliveries a week. Canberra had its fair share of those.
As people started returning to their workplace, Wing also started delivering to nearby workplaces from its Mitchell warehouse. It is now looking beyond the suburbs of Crace, Franklin, Palmerston, Harrison and Mitchell that it has been servicing for two years.
Mr Suskin won’t reveal exactly where, but it won’t be in other areas of Canberra just yet.
Wing will continue with its softly-softly approach to doing business, conducting outreach and taking feedback before launching a new service.
“Based on where people have raised their hand, we have a pretty good idea of where that will be,” Mr Suskin said.
The new quieter aircraft, to be rolled out in coming weeks, is the result of feedback about noise, something that provoked much antagonism and inquiries during the Tuggeranong trial some years ago.
That response produced an aircraft that was quieter while hovering; this new one will be quieter as it flies overhead.
Testing has shown that the volume has been almost halved for a person on the ground and the new design more than halved the pitch or the tonal sound that people find most annoying.
Mr Suskin said tests had shown that a person inside a house would struggle to hear the aircraft as it flew over.
He said complaints were few, but Wing would always respond to feedback and continue to make changes to improve the service.
“We know we’re flying in neighbourhoods and we want to be good neighbours,” Mr Suskin said.
Wing’s plans come after the release last week of a whole-of-government approach to managing the growing drone ecosystem, from regulation around planning, noise, safety and privacy to managing airspace to supporting businesses using emerging aviation technologies.
Mr Suskin welcomed the Federal Government paying more attention to the growing sector, saying other delivery operations were also emerging.
“They’re looking at this, investing more in it, and starting to look at it from a larger regulatory framework,” he said. “It will help us grow responsibly.”
Mr Suskin said Australia was leading the way in this space and other countries’ regulators were turning to us, and what was happening in Canberra, for guidance.
“It will shape how this looks globally, because this is where it’s happening the most.”
Wing is a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.