It’s official: Google will open its world-first drone delivery business in Canberra’s north, now that the aviation authority has given formal approval to the project.
Project Wing, run by Google’s parent company Alphabet, has been trialling delivering burritos, coffee and medication by drone in a suburb on the fringes of Canberra for a year.
For months, a depot in Canberra’s industrial suburb of Mitchell – with roller doors built into its second storey – has sat waiting for approval for its dozens of drones to take flight.
The air safety regulator CASA needed to consider whether to grant the same safety exemptions given to Google in its Bonython trial, such as allowing drones to fly closer to people than usual.
On Tuesday, CASA spokesman Peter Gibson told ABC Radio Canberra that approval had been given.
“We’ve gone through all the thorough safety assessment we did for the Bonython operation, we’ve done that now for Mitchell and surrounding suburbs. We’ll issue the appropriate permissions for those to go ahead,” Mr Gibson said.
He indicated Project Wing would have the same exemptions.
“Everyone can rest assured from a safety perspective it will operate very, very well, just as it did down at Bonython,” he said.
Quieter drones employed for Mitchell operation
In the year-long Bonython trial, there were more than a thousand deliveries without a safety incident.
But it caused upset among locals, who said the noise of the drones drove them to tears.
The drones were below legal noise limits, but Project Wing has since developed a new, quieter, model for its Mitchell operation.
A local inquiry into drone delivery has heard no agency currently has remit to handle noise issues – CASA and the ACT Government both denied they had jurisdiction to manage noise issues.
Five suburbs to receive service
The new Mitchell operation will initially deliver goods from a dozen local businesses to five suburbs in Gungahlin, in Canberra’s north.
The head of Project Wing has previously said the depot was ready to operate, but was waiting for approval.
The company has been contacted for comment.