12 May 2021

Drone operator poised for quiet expansion into more Gungahlin suburbs

| Ian Bushnell
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Jesse Suskin

Wing’s Jesse Suskin and the new quieter drone above. Photos: Wing.

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.

Drone in flight

The new quieter Wing drone in flight.

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.

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The approval for drone delivery flights, for the commercial benefit of Google, over Canberra’s suburbs must be reviewed in consultation with the residents of Canberra.
Like most people, I live a busy and somewhat stressful life and find some relief from the hustle and demands of work and caring for my partner by spending time outside on walks or in the garden.
I am deeply distressed by the regular, noisy, low flying drones crisscrossing the air above my home in Kaleen every 10-15 minutes.
In addition the mechanical sound pollution together with the visual impact seem to be deterring the birds I feel privileged to share my garden with. I have seen magpies and choughs scared off by drones flying nearby.

What research has been done into the impact of the commercial use of drones? Who has been consulted? It would seem that the profit for the few is demanding that the rest of must sacrifice yet another freedom and settle for a diminished quality of life.

The only quiet things about this company are their refusal to respond to criticism, or to give details of the number and nature of complaints they receive. They are certainly quiet about those things.

Their products certainly aren’t quiet, by any definition of the term.

Rather than expansion, it should be shut down. These drones are not quiet at all. What real benefit do they really bring. Why should everyone’s peace and quiet be shattered for delivery of banana bread. It is not like it is delivering urgent medical supplies. Why aren’t the politicians listening to the voters. Are profits more important than people quiet enjoyment? There is no clear benefit but a clear and destructive outcome to everyone living under the flight path each and every day. Urgently need to shut this operation down that has no clear benefit to the community. Those in their destructive paths should start to speak up. Don’t wait till your quiet is shattered by these drones.

What makes this company think Canberra wants drones? They have ads on Facebook for gelato and banana bread delivery, along with their own trolls replying to any negative comments about their drone delivery service. I would prefer to walk to the local cafe/takeaway/icecream shop than have my peace and privacy invaded or if I had to have it delivered, by bike etc that we see going past and tip the deliverer as they arent paid well. Just makes me think of sedentary people not moving from their house eating junk. Our local courier/parcel service is a lovely Sikh man who quietly moves along our street in his van only once a day efficiently delivering parcels, worth his weight in gold as he knows everyone/waves l and knows when not to knock. If they try to expand drone delivery to our area they will certainly come up against resistance as people are active, social, love the outdoors but enjoy their peace, quiet and privacy.

Ian Bushnell, it’s interesting that you call Wing’s approach “softly-softly”. I’d call it sneaky-sneaky. Why wouldn’t they tell you which Gungahlin suburbs they’ll be expanding into? As a Palmerston resident surrounded by wasteful and irritating deliveries of coffee by air, I would hope Wing’s expansion is a lot quieter when it comes to drone noise. It’s certainly very quiet on clear-communication-with-the-community.

I feel sorry for Gungahlinians. “Quieter” does not mean quiet.

This bloke is operating in OUR air space, and should be made to be accountable, open and honest about all his activities. When he hides so much information from residents, then you know for certain he’s just abusing the residents’ trust.

Speak up everyone, and close this mongrel down before he gets so far entrenched it’s impossible to stop him.

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