Project Wing Drones

In just two years, Google’s drone delivery service expects to soar into the American market. Reuters reports that David Vos, the project lead for Google’s experimental drone delivery service Project Wing, told an air traffic control conference that “our goal is to have commercial business up and running in 2017.”

Though, as some have pointed out, missing from that bold proclamation are the thorny matters of getting clearance from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) if the drones are to operate in the United States, not to mention answers to other questions of technical and legal feasibility. Who pays for damage caused to person, property, or the cargo itself if a drone crashes, for instance?

That said, Google Wing is one of the more exciting offshoots of Google’s (ok, Alphabet‘s) core business of selling ads against online searches. The idea is familiar: a small package delivery service powered by small flying drones. It looks like this:

Google Wing has only been in development for a few years, and was only publicly unveiled in 2014, but it’s already pretty promising. First tested in Australia, thanks to the country’s favorable legal climate, Google also recently conducted stateside tests under the NASA supervision.

Initially, Google tried fixed-wing drones as an alternative to Amazon’s proposed delivery drones, which are in the now familiar aerial vehicle design category of quadcopters. Those fixed wings are pictured above, but as is clear in the video, Google switched to a quadcopter design, after attempts at a fixed-wing version failed.

If and when it materializes for consumers, it might have some competition, not just in the air, but on the ground, as other startups look to further automate package delivery.