Wing unveils quieter drone for its planned Gungahlin operations

Ian Bushnell 12 March 2019 23

Wing CEO James Burgess with a drone and its quieter propeller system. Photos: George Tsotsos.

Aspiring drone delivery operator Wing has unveiled its new quieter propeller system in the wake of complaints from its Bonython trial which were overwhelmingly about noise.

The Alphabet subsidiary demonstrated the difference at its testing ground in Tuggeranong on Friday (8 March), flying drones with the old and new propellers.

Region Media‘s camera was 20 metres away, which Wing said reflected the typical spacing of blocks in residential areas of Canberra and what the experience would be for a next-door neighbour witnessing a delivery.

The signature high-pitched whine that so antagonised residents in Bonython has been replaced by a lower frequency sound, but whether it will be enough to placate some remains to be seen.

Fresh from a grilling at the Legislative Assembly inquiry into drone delivery earlier in the week, Wing CEO James Burgess said it was a pretty significant reduction in noise.

“You can notice right away that not only is it quieter but the tone of the propellers is greatly reduced and frequency pitch has been reduced quite substantially,” he said.

Wing says there is a need for greater consultation with the community.

After the torrid reception that Wing received in Bonython, which saw the issue taken to the Federal Parliament and a committee inquiry launched in the Assembly, Wing has been keen to respond and resolve the noise issue before embarking on its Gungahlin operation out if its new Mitchell base.

“We’re hopeful that the community in Mitchell and Gungahlin will appreciate the change, given the feedback from Bonython,” Mr Burgess said.

He said Wing would continue to improve the sound and other aspects of the delivery system.

Mr Burgess said that besides noise, the other major takeout from the Bonython trial was the need for greater consultation with the community which had prompted a more rigorous approach to its outreach in Gungahlin.

He said Wing was in talks with multiple merchants in the area and hoped to have more than two dozen sign up, half of which were local businesses, once operations started in Gungahlin.

But first, Wing needed its development application approved for the Mitchell base, approvals from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and more community consultation before a start date could be announced.

Mr Burgess said he wanted it to be as transparent and open as possible and was working with independent consultants to provide objective data and measurements on issues such as noise and the impact on birdlife.

Wing supported any regulatory framework at an ACT or Commonwealth level that enabled community feedback.

The company was not looking to scale too quickly.

“We are taking a staged approach, we are investing in Canberra and setting up our operation base Mitchell. Our operations will grow a step at a time. We want to make sure we take into account sensitivities and feedback from community.”

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23 Responses to Wing unveils quieter drone for its planned Gungahlin operations
BlowMeDown BlowMeDown 10:01 pm 14 Mar 19

They will be much noisier than this demo when carrying their payload.

These things have to pick up each delivery before they can deliver it. If you live near a shop that uses this service your property value will be going down.

Maelinar Maelinar 4:42 pm 13 Mar 19

When are they going to deploy these bad boys ?

Capital Retro Capital Retro 11:21 am 13 Mar 19

“Won’t someone think of the birds??? “

No one cared about the birds being blended by the planet-saving wind turbines. did they?

Steve McLeish Steve McLeish 11:19 am 13 Mar 19

Won’t someone think of the birds??? Drone operators will have blood on their hands and death on their conscience. May the birds haunt them ever more, ever more.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:14 am 13 Mar 19

I am glad that the hundreds of illegal unmuffled Harley Davidson motorcycles in Canberra can’t fly.

Gerrie Mackey Gerrie Mackey 6:53 am 13 Mar 19

There is a good reason why drones for delivery hasn’t been accepted in any other city of the world because it is unnecessary, invasive, and potentially very dangerous. During the recent fires in Victoria a plane carrying much needed water was brought down by a drone.

    Bek Clark Bek Clark 3:39 pm 13 Mar 19

    Gerrie Mackey oh that’s awkward

    Google “drone delivery” and “Iceland”

    There’s always the delete button

Matthew Pez Matthew Pez 12:15 am 13 Mar 19

How about no. What about the birds.

Lori J Tas Lori J Tas 10:34 pm 12 Mar 19

:D and they will just keep getting quieter as the tech improves, though I've never found them that noisy :)

Gerard Jenkins Gerard Jenkins 8:32 pm 12 Mar 19

I would like to see more study done on the impact to wildlife. The 1st world in the 21st century is already pretty damn convenient. Do we really need this at the expense of our wildlife? And before anyone answers, yes, it's a rhetorical question.

Tim Young Tim Young 7:20 pm 12 Mar 19

I think drones are cooler than Magpies and humans combined. Carry on.

Eoin Wotkinz Eoin Wotkinz 6:37 pm 12 Mar 19

It won’t matter. Jowls will still flap at equal rpm to the new props

    Tim Young Tim Young 7:29 pm 12 Mar 19

    I can't wait for the day when I can stroll outside in my underwear and shoot me down some Maccas.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 5:32 pm 12 Mar 19

Drones (of this sort) are shiny and new(ish) and thus irresistibly appealing to our resident army of easily bored neophiliacs, but is drone delivery – for anything other than emergencies for people with significant mobility issues etc. – consistent with the “active transport” policy which ACT Government spokespersons keep droning on about?

Hans Dimpel Hans Dimpel 5:24 pm 12 Mar 19

I can understand that drones are useful in medical emergencies to deliver medical supplies fast and safely, but do we really need drones delivering take away coffee over our heads all day?

    Warwick Bradly Warwick Bradly 5:33 pm 12 Mar 19

    Yes, I'd like deliveries by drone. Do you have to have your postie deliver mail? That's noisy!

    Hans Dimpel Hans Dimpel 5:52 pm 12 Mar 19

    Does this mean they will only be working the same hours as posties?

    Warwick Bradly Warwick Bradly 6:29 pm 12 Mar 19

    Hans Dimpel I believe they have a time range in the trial. That said, I'd be happy to have a pizza delivered up until a reasonable hour - I don't imagine they can operate when it's dark. They'll also continue to get quieter as development continues. Exciting times!

    Tim Young Tim Young 7:21 pm 12 Mar 19

    Yes. Yes we do.

    Hans Dimpel Hans Dimpel 6:21 am 13 Mar 19

    I think posties arrive once a day. With drones there could be multiple of them going all day long. Also posties stick to public spaces like roads and the recipients driveway, but these drones can fly over houses and backyards?

Robina Jane Robina Jane 4:34 pm 12 Mar 19

Where’s the other environmental and social impact assessments?

nealg nealg 2:56 pm 12 Mar 19

I just wonder why there are restrictions on the flying of model planes but less on the flying of drones. These drones appear to have forward thrust propellers so are they not ‘planes’ under the definition of model aircraft?
On that point we live 1.5km from the Belconnen model plane club. On weekends and certain Tuesday mornings the noise from there can be quite annoying. A bit like having a floor sander running next door all morning. How is it going to be with all the proposed drones taking to the air?

bj_ACT bj_ACT 1:02 pm 12 Mar 19

What are they trying to hide by ensuring the recording media is kept 20m away from the drone?

I used the measurement tool on the ACT Government mapping app over the new delivery area of Gungahlin and most neighbours houses averaged only 10 metres from the driveway of their neighbour.

Remember that driveways rarely run down the middle of a block, they are almost always on the left or right side of a block, directly next to your neighbour.

Google Project Wing continue to spin every news story without honestly addressing concerns of residents, animals, wildlife etc. Last year the CEO said the drones were quieter than a car, now he says they were far too loud. Who can we believe?

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