- Wing, Alphabet’s drone company, says it’s seeing a significant uptick in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The company tells Business Insider that it is forming partnerships with more grocery stores, pharmacies, and retailers.
- Wing is still the only drone delivery service available to the general public in the US, but Amazon is working to launch its competitor service Prime Air.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
AAlphabet drone division Wing has completed more than 1,000 deliveries in the past two weeks as it sees a “significant” increase in demand for its services due to COVID-19, the company said.
Wing, which spun out of the moonshot division previously known as Google X in 2018, delivers packages in Christiansburg, Virginia, as well as parts of Finland and Australia. It’s the only drone delivery service available to the general public in the US, though Amazon is working to launch its competitor service, Prime Air.
“No one could have predicted coronavirus, but even we were surprised at the uptake of customers when ‘shelter in place’ came into Virginia,” Alexa Dennett, Wing’s head of marketing and communications, told Business Insider in an interview.
Here’s how Wing works:
Anyone in one of the service zones can download the Wing app to place an order for a product. When their shopping is complete, a drone will be dispatched from a Wing station to collect the product from the merchant. Once it’s loaded up, the drone will travel at around 65 mph to reach the customer’s home, where it will hover at 23 feet and lower a hook to drop the package off. Wing’s drones require a space “around the size of a picnic rug” to safely drop a package, Dennett said.
“We deliver to apartment buildings in Helsinki in Finland, and there’s usually a little courtyard area we can put the package safely,” Dennett said.
Toilet paper is one of the top three items being demanded right now, Dennett said, while Wing is also delivering soup, baby food, and over-the-counter medicines from Walgreens. Items like coffee and ice cream are delivered in thermo-resistant packaging.
Wing is sparking up some new partnerships based on customer demand.
“In Australia we actually got a ton of requests for milk and bread, so we added a local grocery store there,” Dennett said. Similarly, it “accelerated” conversations with retailers in Virginia, she said, because “we knew their businesses would be affected in that time.”
The company won’t comment on how many drones are in its fleet right now, or any of its more immediate plans to expand the service, though says it’s hoping to collect plenty of feedback from current customers.
“It’s really early days so it’s hard to know how coronavirus will shape our business’s strategy,” Dennett said. “Ultimately we would love many more households around the US and the world to have access to our technology, but we’ve got not specifics at this point in time.”
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