back to article Alphabet's Wing drone unit inks supermarket delivery deal

Alphabet's drone delivery outfit, Wing, has inked a deal with a major Australian supermarket chain that will see it deliver household staples – in small bundles. The chain is called Coles and its 800-plus stores collectively earn AU$38 billion (US$28B) a year in revenue and account for almost 30 per cent of Australia's grocery …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "better vehicles for greenwashing"

    If Canberra has less high rise towers than Sydney, that might justify trialling the drones in Canberra. Towers inevitably create wind currents that can be finicky, and I don't think we have the coding chops to ensure that drones navigate through turbulence safely.

    But apart from that, Canberra also has plenty of sunshine if I'm not mistaken. The drones can almost certainly be recharged by solar power, which would mean that they only cost maintenance, not energy.

    I have no idea if this is fact, but it is plausible.

    I'll have a tin of caviar and a bottle of champagne for delivery . . .

    1. ArrZarr

      Re: "better vehicles for greenwashing"

      Never been, but from what I understand, Canberra makes Los Angeles look like Manhattan Island.

      1. fxkeh

        Re: "better vehicles for greenwashing"

        > Canberra makes Los Angeles look like Manhattan Island.

        not according to wikipedia, at least. 2,813.7 hours of sunshine for Canberra vs 3,254.2 for Los Angeles. (2,534.7 for Manhatten, which is closer in hours to Canberra)

  2. Winkypop Silver badge

    “reducing the number of trucks on the road”

    1.5kg at a time!

    This is pure greenwashing bullshit.

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: “reducing the number of trucks on the road”

      Not if the truck is only carrying 1.5 kg. I see too many like that around where I live (Happy-Slappy Valley, Out-in-the-Sticks, UK)

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: “reducing the number of trucks on the road”

        There are some unusual opportunities for drones, I guess. I ordered a bunch o' stuff, including 3 SD cards.

        Amazon delivered the bunch o' stuff, but only one SD card.

        They sent a truck to deliver: 1 SD card.

        They sent another truck to deliver: 1 SD card.

        I tweeted about it and some Amazon robot posted a link to a page about how I can help by recycling my boxes, which gave me an opportunity for snarky replies.

        1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

          Re: “reducing the number of trucks on the road”

          My StepFather once purchased a wireless keyboard & mouse from Amazon. It arrived in a box the size of a coffin, buried beneath about a zillion of those "air pillow" plastic thingies, and included a sheet of paper inside with instructions on how to recycle it all. StepDad left a rather scathing review, but not of the product itself, just the dimwits in charge of shipping.

          Amazon sent him an auto thank you email, a promise to do better next time, & a coupon for 10% off his next Amazon order.


  3. ShadowSystems Silver badge

    How many drones will it take

    to deliver a dozen Castle Anthrax Naughty Nuns for some peril?

    *Pure, Sweet, & Innocent smile*

    1. Little Mouse Silver badge

      Re: How many drones will it take

      Well that depends. African or European?

      1. steelpillow Silver badge

        Re: How many drones will it take

        That's a hard one to swallow

  4. AMBxx Silver badge

    Am I the only one?

    Imagine having that smart fridge that's never quite available, automatically ordering drone deliveries of eggs. Supermarket substitutes brand of eggs, so fridge still thinks it's still short of eggs. Orders more...

    There must a be short story or xkcd that does this?

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Am I the only one?

      Or if someone attempts to buy a 1.5L bottle of coke then it could swap to something else, like the lighter, powdered version...

  5. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    "the next evolution in delivery technology"

    Did anyone else have flashbacks of the Sinclair C5 launch in Britain?

    1. hoola Silver badge

      Re: "the next evolution in delivery technology"

      The difference now is that there appear to be huge numbers of people who are addicted to everything being delivered to their door within a short time or ordering.

      The arguments that it takes vehicles off the road, as others have said is just stupid and using a drone is even worse. Even many of the suicide delivery cyclists are using e-bikes now but at least that is better than this.

      Green energy or not, using flight to deliver 1.5 Kg stuff is just stupid beyond belief. The only genuine use for this could be getting medical supplies to remote locations.

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: "the next evolution in delivery technology"

        > The only genuine use for this could be getting medical supplies to remote locations.

        Or samples to biomedical labs?

      2. James Hughes 1

        Re: "the next evolution in delivery technology"

        Without some energy use figures, that you have failed to supply, how do you know these drones are "worse" that whatever you were comparing them against?

        1. John Robson Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: "the next evolution in delivery technology"

          Because drones are fun for the same reason helicopters are.... they fly by beating gravity into submission.

          That's never going to be an efficient form of transport - trucks might be bad, but the answer to an underutilised truck isn't a tiny helicopter, it's a smaller road vehicle.

          Where time is of the essence (medicines), and mass is small (medicines, tests, cards...), or where human contact is really unwanted (covid test deliveries) then there is a place for this.

          But an electrically assisted (no idea how hilly canberra is) cargo trike will beat most things for energy efficient transport.

          1. Metro-Gnome

            Re: "the next evolution in delivery technology"

            That cargo trike would be piloted by a real human being with all their carbon footprint, on roads that have to be installed with heavy diesel-drinking plant machinery and maintained by similar, to provide a circuitous often traffic slowed route from source to destination. Only to find the recipient got bored of waiting after the tracking app said it was delivered 15 minutes ago already so gets carried back and resent the next day.

            An automated point to point delivery and return, using no linking infrastructure, with much greater intrinsic traffic capacity, might be able to define a delivery slot more effectively and so miss less folk. Not need a unionised waged worker to deliver it between 8am and 8pm maybe.

            When you must have nuggets at 3:15am, a drone to your driveway might well be the carbon cheaper option.

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: "the next evolution in delivery technology"

              There are very few places where the roads are not going to be maintained anyway, and the carbon footprint of the person is not tied to their job.

              A failure in tracking isn't a reason not to use a delivery - you'll end up with exactly the same problem with any delivery mechanism.

              If you *must* have nuggets at 3 in the morning then I question your choices - but I'd suggest that a fleet of drones shouldn't be operating at 3 in the morning anyway. A simple bike is almost certainly the better choice.

              If you need an AED at 3 in the morning then absolutely send a drone, or maybe just don't - since you seem to think that the drone would then be responsible for the rest of that person's lifetime carbon emissions (at least you attribute those to the trike).

      3. ShadowSystems Silver badge

        Re: "the next evolution in delivery technology"

        At Hoola, re: meds via drones.

        In principle I agree, being able to deliver life saving drugs as quickly as possible is an awesome use of the technology.

        The problem raises it's head when you realize that 1.5KG (~3.3 pounds to us LeftPondians) isn't enough to do the job. Take insulin for example. It _really_ needs to be refrigerated to remain viable. So any delivery has to include the means of keeping it cold. This is most often done with a chemical ice pack. These are generally heavier than the meds they're designed to keep cold. Thus a box of insulin plus the chemical ice pack will almost certainly exceed, or at least come dangerously close to exceeding, the max cargo load of one of those drones. Result: no Amazon drone delivery of meds via one of those drones.

        To be fair, bigger/better drones exist that absolutely can carry the weight of the insulin, chemical ice packs, and plenty more besides, so it CAN be done via drone, just not the ones mentioned in the article.

        I'm just frustrated that, living in the middle of nowhere as I do, I'm still waiting for delivery drones to bring me a pizza. =-j

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: "the next evolution in delivery technology"

          You only need emergency drugs to be kept cold for the flight though - if it's not needed in the next thirty minutes it's not an emergency delivery.

          A relatively small pack of dry ice in an insulated container is likely to be more than is needed.

          One of my medications needs to be kept refrigerated, but it is always warmed to room temperature before use (since very cold injections aren't all that fun). I presume the same is the case with insulin (just checked - 28 day lifetime at reasonable temperatures), which would probably mean that you don't even need to actively cool it, maybe wrap it in a little bubble wrap if you live in a very hot part of the world...

  6. ArrZarr

    Yeah, the drone stuff is cool and silly. Sure.

    That being said, the important thing here is how weird it is for a Brit to hear that Woolworths is a market leader in something besides being the defunct "Shop that probably has the thing you're looking for if you can't think where to buy it but feels like it should be available on the high street somewhere".

    1. mark l 2 Silver badge

      Different Woolworths, not connected to the American / UK Woolworths. Apparently the Woolworths names was not registered in Australia so back in the 1920s some businessmen decided to register it to play off the FW Woolworths stores which were popular in the UK and US.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        We had a Woolco in my town as a child, and some place called Piggly Wiggly, in my grandparents town there was a Woolworths. Ah the memories of those places.

      2. spold Silver badge

        You could pick'n'mix between them

      3. Winkypop Silver badge

        Re Different Woolworths


        And everyone in Aus calls them “Woolies” anyway.

  7. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Wing has also redeveloped its drones to make them quieter.

    That is a serious understatement. The new drones or props are EXTREMELY quiet.


  8. Buzzword

    Better suited to pharmacy products

    Supermarket products are low-margin and bulky. Drugs are lightweight and valuable; and people who are sick don't want to go out. They're the ideal product for drones.

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Better suited to pharmacy products

      Low volume/weight and high cost...

      So ideal for printer ink?

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Around here the magpies would have a drone package stripped in mid-flight

    Especially, but not restricted to, food.

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