Wing, the drone delivery service from Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has been involved in a rather serious incident in which a drone left an entire community without power. Apparently the drone was delivering food to a customer when it crashed into high voltage wires in a Brisbane suburb in Australia. The drone caught fire and the power was manually switched off by Energex, the company that operates the electricity supply.
It is not known whether the Wing drone suffered a malfunction or whether it was human error
About 2,000 Brisbane residents were without power for 45 minutes following the incident, and another 300 were without power for nearly three hours. The drone apparently fell on wires, from where it then crashed and caught fire. According to Wing, the drone had a “controlled landing”, following which it landed on the wires. Of course, company reps say they have launched an internal investigation and apologize for the inconvenience.
This is probably also the reason why drone deliveries are still very limited. There are a few services that serve medical institutions, for rapid transport of organs for transplant, for example, or for delivering vaccines to hard-to-reach areas, but very few that offer deliveries to the general public. Wing reportedly has 100,000 customers in Brisbane, where it has already made 200,000 deliveries.
Fortunately, the power grid was not damaged and no one was injured in the incident. However, such incidents could lead to new laws to better regulate delivery services of this kind.
At the moment, Wing also operates delivery flights in the US and Finland, but its most successful market seems to be Australia itself, where suburban customers order most often via such services. The advantage of drone deliveries is primarily the short delivery time, averaging less than 10 minutes per flight.