By Chris Stonor
American pharmacy store chain, Walgreens, is to begin flying packages by drone to residents in a pair of Texas cities in partnership with Wing, reports abcnews.go.com. The companies state they’ll start trialling the service next week in the city of Frisco and neighbouring Little Elm, two expanding communities north of Dallas.
Frisco Mayor, Jeff Cheney, commented, “Road congestion is the biggest complaint we get. Therefore, every delivery made by drone is taking a transport vehicle off our roads.”
This will be Wing’s first commercial expansion in the U.S. after years testing the concept in a Virginia town and parts of Australia and Finland. The drone company is a subsidiary of Google’s corporate parent, Alphabet. Jonathan Bass, Wing’s Head of Marketing and Communications, said, “We’ve gradually moved into denser and denser environments.”
Walgreens says around 100 store items will be available for air delivery when the service rolls out in Texas during the coming months, including over-the-counter medication, snacks and cosmetics. Store employees will be tasked with taking online orders and then loading the purchased items onto one of Wing’s 10 lb drones.
The craft are able to navigate autonomously — though a human operator can also control them remotely — and are powered by two forward propellers on their wings and 12 smaller vertical propellers. A tether releases to drop the package onto a front lawn or backyard. Wing expects most customers to be in the single-family homes that dominate the area, though it has delivered to apartment buildings in Europe.
Bass continued, “It’s got very advanced planning and routing capabilities so for each flight, the system does millions of simulations to get the best route.” Adding, “It can navigate to a very specific location.”
Mayor Jeff Cheney
The first phase of the initiative will operate out of the parking lot of a single Walgreens store in a shopping centre near the border of Little Elm and Frisco. Wing says the drones will be able to serve thousands of people within a 4-mile radius of the store.
Frisco, which has grown from about 6,000 people in 1990 to around 200,000 last year, has pitched itself as a testing ground for new modes of transport such as self-driving cars. Cheney said he doesn’t expect many complaints about drone noise or safety.
Federal officials started rolling out new rules in mid-April to allow operators to fly small drones over people and at night, potentially giving a boost to commercial use of the machines. Wing says its Texas service will be limited to daytime hours for now.
Wing’s biggest delivery service to date has been in the Australian city of Logan, where the company says its made about 50,000 drone deliveries in the first eight months of this year. A smaller trial with Walgreens started in 2019 in sparsely populated neighbourhoods of Christiansburg, Virginia.
Walgreens is the second-largest pharmacy store chain in the United States behind CVS Health. It specialises in filling prescriptions, health and wellness products, health information and photo services.
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(News Source: https://abcnews.go.com)