Google’s Project Wing Delivery Drones to Be Tested in U.S.

(Bloomberg) -

Google’s Project Wing drone delivery services will be tested at a U.S. site, the White House announced as part of an initiative to push research and safety measures for unmanned flight.

The National Science Foundation will spend $35 million over the next five years on unmanned flight research and the Department of Interior plans to expand its use of drone flights, according to an emailed release Tuesday from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The White House push comes after the Federal Aviation Administration in June finalized its first set of drone regulations allowing broad commercial flights and establishing requirements for unmanned pilot licenses.

“Honestly, the way I think about these issues, I don’t think about the problems,” the head of Project Wing, Dave Vos, said at a White House event to promote drone technology. “I think about the solutions that we can bring to bear.”

The current regulations won’t allow the type of automated, long-distance flying that Alphabet’s Google and Inc. have proposed for their package delivery systems. Google Project Wing will conduct experiments in a safe environment at one of the six FAA-sanctioned drone test sites to lay the groundwork for future approvals, according to the White House.

Amazon announced on July 26 it would begin testing its drone delivery system in the U.K.

Google didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking more details about the test program.

In its latest regulations, the FAA said it would allow expanding uses of drones, such as flights beyond the sight of an operator, if users could demonstrate that they were safe.

Unmanned aircraft are rapidly taking to the skies to perform a variety of tasks, including aerial inspections of refineries and helping farmers fertilize their crops, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said at the event. In many cases, drones will be able to take over dangerous activities, thereby reducing risks to humans, Huerta said.

“Just last week, two people lost their lives in two different accidents involving crop dusters, exactly the type of job that a small unmanned aircraft can do with far less risk to people and to property on the ground,” Huerta said.

The agency is working on several fronts to expand drone use and expects to develop a framework for safely allowing flights over groups of people for the news media and other industries by next year.