Delivery drones will soon be flying over Gungahlin suburbs after Alphabet subsidiary Wing was granted approval by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to launch its service in north Canberra.
CASA said the approval came with several conditions attached including using the new quieter drone.
Drones cannot be flown over crowds or groups of people, and can only be flown after 7 am on weekdays and after 8 am on weekends. Wing can only deliver to people who have chosen to take part in the deliveries and have been informed about safety. A drone must stay five metres away from people during the delivery phase of a flight, as was the case in the south.
Wing said in a statement that its delivery service would initially be available to only 100 eligible homes in the suburbs of Crace, Palmerston and Franklin, to be gradually expanded to customers in Harrison and Gungahlin in coming weeks and months.
Customers will be able to place orders using Wing’s mobile app.
Wing will continue to deliver its staples of coffee, local chocolate, takeaway food and simple medicines, as well as golfing products but is looking to expand its range of products. Its initial launch partners will include Kickstart Expresso, Capital Chemist, Pure Gelato, Jasper + Myrtle, Bakers Delight, Guzman Y Gomez, and Drummond Golf.
Wing has been testing drone delivery in Australia since 2014 and over the past 18 months, it has delivered food, small household items and over-the-counter chemist products more than 3000 times to Australian homes in Fernleigh Park, Royalla and Bonython communities.
But it has also experienced a strong community backlash, particularly in the Bonython trial, over noise and privacy issues, with complaints landing in the Federal Parliament and a Legislative Assembly inquiry being launched.
Wing has since adjusted the propeller systems on its drones to tone down the high-pitched scream that so antagonised residents in the south ahead of the launch of operations in the north. It also committed to greater engagement and outreach to explain its operations and reassure the community.
“The feedback we have received during the trials has been valuable, helping us to refine our operations to better meet the needs and expectations of the communities in which we operate,” Wing said.
“We will continue to engage with the local community and stakeholders as we expand our service and are hosting community information stalls and delivery demonstrations in the serviceable areas over the next few weeks.
“We’re excited to connect with more local businesses in the Gungahlin area about how we can help them reach more customers faster, safer and more sustainably and encourage any local merchants who are interested in learning more to get in touch with us.”
But it will face continued opposition with a new anti-drones group called Nodronezone launched to take over from the Bonython group. It has already said it is sceptical about the quieter drones and still has privacy and safety concerns.
“Wing strongly believes that by working together with local policymakers, regulators, and communities, we can improve access to services, open up new economic opportunities, and better connect our cities. We look forward to continuing this dialogue with the Canberra community as we expand Wing’s service,” the company said.