Commerce

Google Launches a Drone Delivery Service in Australia

Get food, coffee, medicine, and golf balls (if your aim is just that bad).

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Drones being delivered
Imagine China/Newscom

Want your morning coffee and croissant delivered by an adorable little drone instead of waiting in line at your local Starbucks? If you live in some communities in North Canberra, Australia, you now have that option!

This week, Google drone delivery service Wing announced the launch of limited commercial delivery in parts of the country's capital city. If all goes well, they'll be expanding both the goods offered and the places they'll deliver to.

Right now, homes in a trio of North Canberra suburbs can get hot cross buns from this bakery, coffee from these guys, gelato from these folks, prescriptions from this pharmacy, and…uh…golf gear? It's not clear whether they'll deliver directly to the course if you're one of those folks who tosses your putter in the pond after missing a shot.

Wing has been testing drone deliveries in Australia since 2014, but this week's announcement signifies the passing of an important threshold: Making it publicly available to consumers. While it may not actually be a world first—a firm in Iceland started drone deliveries in 2017—it's nevertheless a huge deal that Google got authorization in Australia to begin consumer delivery services.

Business Insider notes that the launch of the service comes with all sorts of rules about where the drones can travel and the times during which deliveries are allowed. And it's not without challenges. Testing in Canberra reveals that the drones are not exactly quiet, with neighbors who live near one of the shops delivering food complaining about the nonstop whines of the aircraft traveling back and forth. An official with Wing says they're working on developing quieter drones.

In the meantime, let's remember that this is good news. Competition among courier services will allow more people to get goods more cheaply. Drones also have a lighter carbon footprint than ground transportation, which is great for the environment.

And yet, when a fake video purporting to show an Amazon blimp launching a bunch of delivery drones, it was seen by some as an "ominous" and "dystopian" and "terrifying" glimpse of the future. If you're concerned about drones eventually delivering death from above, I've got some bad news for you: The United States has been killing people with drones for a long, long time now.

There is, in fact, no reason to be "unnerved" by the prospect of Amazon blimps saving you time and effort by letting you press a few buttons and get medicine or food delivered. It's reminiscent of every other speculative panic that has accompanied every other technological innovation. People used to claim that riding in trains would cause women's uteruses to fall out because they aren't supposed to travel that fast. People claimed electricity exposed women and children to danger by alerting predators to the fact that someone was home.

Drone deliveries are going to be great (but not without their own issues to get handled) and eventually people will feel stupid for being "unnerved" by them. Until then, enjoy this video of somebody in Canberra getting burritos delivered:

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