Following moves by Amazon and Walmart, it is now the turn of the Mountain View internet giant to prepare for launch on to the drone delivery market.

Google plans to see its drones flying in US skies by 2017

The War of the Drones has just begun. Following Amazon, Google has now announced its intention to set up a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to provide delivery services. During a speech at an air traffic control convention held this month in Washington DC, Dave Vos, Leader of Project Wing, the working name given by the Google X R&D facility to the drone delivery service programme, announced the search giant’s plans to launch UAVs into the skies above the United States by 2017.

This is however an ambitious timetable, as a number of challenges still remain to be overcome. The first hurdle is the legal one, as the Federal Aviation Administration has not yet finalised awaited new rules on how commercial drones will operate in US airspace. Google and Amazon, plus also Walmart, have joined the US working group tasked with drawing up a Federal regulatory framework.

A number of technical questions will also have to be resolved. Sense and Avoid (S&A) technology has not yet been sufficiently tested to ensure that the commercial UAVs will be able to fly safely, avoiding accidents, and as yet there is no standard that would allow drones to communicate with one another and with traditional aircraft.

Delivery, rescue operations, surveillance, exploration – drones have shown just how much they have to offer, provided that rules for their use are established so as to ensure safety and privacy for the general public. At the moment Virginia is the only US state to have authorised delivery drones, which have been used to drop off medical supplies in rural areas. Meanwhile Australia and Japan have shown less reluctance to move forward with the deployment of unmanned aerial craft.

By Guillaume Renouard