back to article Those furious gun-toting Aussies were just a glitch. Let's try US drone deliveries, says Wing

After being hounded out of parts of Australia's capital Canberra earlier this year, Google-parent Alphabet has declared its Wing division will start hassling innocent Americans as well as Aussies with drone parcel deliveries. Lucky (or possibly unlucky) inhabitants of Christiansburg, Virginia, in the US, will be able to …

  1. hplasm Silver badge
    Happy

    Soon-

    Chased out of America by gun-toting locals...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Soon-

      Maybe not chased out, but I fail to see how they will keep the locals from using them for target practice, especially given that these things are (unavoidably) irritatingly loud.

      That something is potentially cool does not make it sane, especially in a country where the right to arm bears is apparently more important the right of humans to safety, but maybe this will convert the next human massacre into just a few shot down drones.

      Personally, I think that's preferable and we should be grateful for Google for supporting such effort with hardware.

      Until they decide to shoot back.

      1. big_D Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Soon-

        the right to arm bears

        Another Robin Williams fan?

        1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

          Re: Soon-

          Who isn't?

          :)

    2. John Savard Silver badge

      Re: Soon-

      Indeed. One would have thought they would have bothered Blighty instead, where there are fewer locals authorized to tote guns.

      1. swampdog

        Re: Soon-

        Pressure jet. Hmm, I sense a business idea. Lot's of robotic garden equipment watching the sky. We could start a league!

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: Soon-

          Not to mention taking them out of the sky to grab the item(s) being delivered.

          Apparently in parts of NZ there are people who follow courier vans around the ‘burbs in the day then they swipe the parcels from letterboxes and off doorsteps.

          Autonomous flying drones carrying goods are an obvious hijack target. If you make the high pressure jet full of a dark coloured sticky liquid you can avoid being fingered by the cameras as well.

          You could mount it on the back of what the Yanks call trucks for fast recovery of the item and getaway. Or in the back of a van with a retractable roof like a Victorian disappearing gun. Further NZ connection: at the head of the Otago harbour (Dunedin) in the middle of the Royal Albatross breeding colony there is a still working disappearing gun and they run separate tours to it if giant seabirds are not your thing.

          1. Wellyboot Silver badge

            Re: Soon-

            Cheaper and cleaner to use hunter killer drones, fly above the delivery drone and drop something to tangle up the lift fans. no evidence of foul play at the crash site.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Soon-

        "Indeed. One would have thought they would have bothered Blighty instead, where there are fewer locals authorized to tote guns."

        They'd have to lobby for a special exemption from the law WRT to flying drones out of sight of the operator and over populated areas.

      3. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Soon-

        No guns necessary. If they swoop down to 23ft then you can snag them with a grappling hook.

        (Don't tell my neighbours I said that.)

  2. Blockchain commentard Silver badge
    Flame

    What's the point of drone delivery if places like Amazon take 2 days (48 hours) to just pick your order off a shelf? Guess who has just had notification of it being shipped? And yes, I'm a Prime customer. And if it's more for food takeaways, drones will need to be shaped like UFO's to hold the pizzas.

    1. Symon Silver badge
      Coat

      Drone pizza delivery. If it breaks, it'll be bad. :-

      https://cdn1.thr.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/scale_crop_768_433/2015/03/screen-shot-2015-03-11-at-1.09.31-pm.jpg

    2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Alien

      How dare you steal our vehicle design!

      And all you use is for is a bleeding Pizza, it doesn't even say We will be Avenged anywhere!

    3. vtcodger Silver badge

      Seriously

      What's the point of drone delivery[?]

      Unfortunately, there actually is some stuff where delivery is time critical. Not just Pizza. Organ transplants come to mind. And auto parts stores here in the US generally keep one or more cars out on the road pretty much non-stop delivering parts to auto repair shops and picking up parts from their "warehouses". I suppose drones make sense for stuff like that. Too bad if you ask me. Drones are going to probably going to be yet another pain the rear end for the average person on the street. Noisy and intrusive.

      1. c1ue

        Re: Seriously

        Organ transplants? Quite a stretch. I can just see a warehouse full of refrigerated organs waiting for transport.

        In real life, the numbers of organs transplanted, in any given area, are so few as to be laughable. Not to mention the donors tend to be from far, far away - hundreds to thousands of miles.

        Drone delivery sounds great except it is just more crap for the 0.1%

        1. simonlb Silver badge

          Re: Seriously

          Yeah, you can't just schedule motorcycle crashes on an ad-hoc basis you know.

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: Seriously

            you can't just schedule motorcycle crashes on an ad-hoc basis you know

            Really? Why else would there be a push for self-driving cars?

          2. Aussie Doc
            Black Helicopters

            Re: Seriously

            Unless they decide to arm the drones.

            You know, for self defence and incorporated traffic control purposes only.

        2. PM from Hell

          Re: Seriously

          There was a hilarious segment in an episode of temple where a purloined transplant kidney ended up sweared all over a road. I'm the value of a transplant organ is measured in tens of thousands of pounds in medical resources alone, let alone athe extended lifetime if the recipient which must be in the hundreds of thousands. I can't see a transplant service using such a fragile delivery system. I machine they will stick with medical couriers.

      2. raving angry loony

        Re: Seriously

        In Canada trials have started on delivery of medicines to people living in remote locations here on the west coast. Useful where getting to and from the nearest pharmacy is almost impossible, especially for house-bound sick people living far from cities. I see that as one of the few positive uses of using drones for delivery, where the extreme noise is outweighed by the need. Other than that, they're just another addition to the incessant noise pollution.

      3. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: Seriously

        We are talking about deliveries to residential areas extending into the evening hours.

        Deliveries between commercial operations, usually in zones designated for business activities, during business hours would not be an issue. After all, organ deliveries are already often done by helicopter, significantly louder than drones. And other deliveries to business are frequently done by large trucks, such as semis, again likely louder than these home delivery drones.

        So, until we can regularly do organ transplants in the home, I can't think of anything that doesn't require professional assistance (i.e. a medical practioner or the like) that would require such high-priority deliveries to residential addresses that a car/van/motorcycle/bicycle delivery system wouldn't be adequate.

      4. TeeCee Gold badge
        WTF?

        Re: Seriously

        Yeeees, but there's an obvious problem. Surely you'd want your new organ delivered to a nearby hospital rather than lowered on a tether to your doorstep?

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      What's the point of drone delivery

      I'm not sure what the point of it is myself. In cities with apartment complexes, drone delivery will be very iffy as I'm sure the parcels will be grabbed rather quickly. As for the less populated areas, people move there because they don't want the noise, crime, etc. of bigger cities. So which would be more irritating... have drones flying about or generally peace and quiet? Some will put up with the anti-drone fire if it stops the drone flights.

      I think the whole thing at this point is a product looking for a solution. Maybe in very remote locations where there's farms with few cities around they might work. But if the noise scares the livestock, I suspect there be drones being shot down.

      1. Scoular

        Remember 3D TV

        It does look like a solution looking for a problem.

        3DTV is no longer a significant matter simply because no one wanted it since it was more trouble than it was worth.

        Drone delivery in most cases seems likely to achieve the same status.

        1. Micky Nozawa

          Re: Remember 3D TV

          There is not a single manufacturer making 3D TVs any more, yet there is no end to the creation of 3D films.

  3. James O'Shea

    This should be good

    The locals around there have a healthy, a very healthy, respect for Ye Seconde Amendment. I do hope that Google has armored their drones, 'cause I foresee lots and lots of double-aught and maybe some 0.30-06 and 9mm in their future.

    1. James 51 Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: This should be good

      Given the number of stories there has been over the years on el reg of people shooting down drones in the US it doesn't strike me as being a terribly reliable way to deliver stuff, unless of course the drones are allowed to shoot back. If the drones get the initals H.K. ...

    2. DCFusor Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: This should be good

      Indeed, I'm one such local - Cburg is the nearest excuse for a town to my place (which is boonie-land around 15 miles away).

      They won't have trouble with that in town - a bang like that leads to jail very quickly.

      Now, if they travel, low, over the real rural areas, you bet, someone's going to try a shotgun - with bird shot.

      The most ignorant illiterate and (pick your insult)... "redneck" will NOT shoot a rifle in the air. It just doesn't happen.

      Ditto 9mm pistols.

      That's artillery - range is miles, and everyone knows it. We also have a lot of respect for the 2nd commandment (otherwise known as the golden rule, karma, whatever - pick your religion), and no one wants stuff like that raining on them from the sky. Myself in particular, as my homestead is covered with solar panels.

      That "respect" of the 2nd amendment includes knowing things about guns - like the range, safe backstops and so forth.

      Gun safety is a religion around here, and everyone goes to church. I teach courses in it.

      1. Woodnag

        Re: This should be good

        A lady I know who works in a gunshop says that occasionally a group of Japanese tourists will come in the store... at which point all handguns are moved well out of reach because they've had too many cases of silly pranks of firearms being picked up and pointed around etc. Gun safety is absolutely not instinctive, and essentially any continuous gunplay in the movies etc where the actors have no ear protection is simply makebelieve.

        Going over the top of the trenches in WW1 must have been a complete sensory overload, poor buggers.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: This should be good

          I worked for a bloke who was a submarine captain in WW2 - his description of what it was like to be nearly depthcharged was scary to say the least.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This should be good

        If that service goes live I reckon it won't take days before someone comes up with a shotgun shell that sufficiently disperses - after all, there is money in it. Bean bags won't work because their trajectory isn't very controllable, especially not over distance in a vertical direction :)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This should be good

        > ... will NOT shoot a rifle in the air. It just doesn't happen.

        Right. Just like they would NEVER do anything else stupid with a gun, which is why we NEVER see accidental/negligent discharges, or mass shootings, for that matter. You vastly overestimate the intelligence, reasoning capabilities, and sobriety of your neighbors.

        BTW, the "2nd Commandment" doesn't have anything do with the "Golden Rule", which, oddly, isn't one of the 10 Commandments...

        Yank and a gun owner for over 30 years.

    3. c1ue

      Re: This should be good

      Its time for the aerial area denial kickstarter: balloons with wire tethers that go up 250 feet. That'll take care of the drones flying overhead...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This should be good

      Does not even require a firearm. A wrist stabilized slingshot firing steel ball bearings would do a fair bit of damage. Silent and easily concealed as well as legal nearly everywhere. Used to discourage coyote

  4. jmch Silver badge
    Trollface

    Stocked in advance?

    "...the idea is to deliver items within minutes of an order. This suggests a significant quantity of shop stock is prepared in advance for drone deliveries..."

    or rather, the pervasive and ever-growing Google ad network combined with their data tentacles reaching deep into the remotest crevices of the Internet, combined with a top-secret AI hidden deep underground (preferably a hollowed-out extinct volcano) will already know what you are going to order before you do, and have the necessary items on hand at the local depot

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stocked in advance?

      I reckon they will simply buy (or steal) the Facebook thought reading system and reverse its polarity.

      At that point they no longer need to work out what you're going to order - they'll be telling you what to buy.

      Yeah, must be the beer :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: preferably a hollowed-out extinct volcano

      Why extinct? Use it to drop intruders and/or power the evil lair.

  5. Scott 1

    Data collection en masse

    How much you want to bet those drones will be bristling with cameras, WiFi & Bluetooth radios (maybe SDR?), Lidar, etc. and will be constantly uploading aerial imagery and data to Google's servers?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Data collection en masse

      Now you're encouraging snipers. Tsk tsk.

      :)

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Data collection en masse

        As a child I could knock a conker off a post around 100yds away with a sling in a couple of shots. Cost me a fortune in marbles practising but now I wonder if I could use conkers to take out drones! They shouldn't cause too much trouble on the way down - the conkers that is!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Data collection en masse

          Alas.

          Glass objects at considerable velocity (if not horizontal from your slingshot expertise then vertical because of, well, gravity) are not friendly to the natives. Or to Americans.

          :)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Data collection en masse

            Any projectile when free falling attains a maximum velocity based on gravity and the projectile's mass.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Data collection en masse

              Not mass: drag. Local gravity affects everyone equally, thus g has no mass unit in it. If you drop a feather and a rock from the top of a vacuum chamber, they'll hit the bottom at the same time because there's no air for the feather to float against.

    2. whitepines Silver badge

      Re: Data collection en masse

      If you can't legally shoot it down, perhaps blind it? Some variant of one of the anti-missile light systems might do the trick, at least to avoid it snooping on you from above.

      Other fun tricks: randomly changing WiFi MACs and SSIDs, coming from a router with a directional antenna pointed straight up. Use vertical antennas on any real routers to better mask the signals seen from above (horizontal radiation pattern, basically -- any signal going up is not just wasted but also a spying hazard).

      That all of course only if Google isn't slapped with a nice fat lawsuit first -- drones used by peeping tom civilians tend to get said perverts dealt with rapidly. Is Google immune to the same accusations and laws?

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Data collection en masse

        Not immune but well lawyered so any problem will be dealt with swiftly. Can let a little thing personal privacy get in the way of commercial profits.

        As for the privacy problem... if the thing has a camera, it will be used to in some way the company doesn't approve.

        1. Joe W Silver badge

          Re: Data collection en masse

          The company doesn't approve? Yeah, right. "actively encourages" is closer to the mark.

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Data collection en masse

            I look forward to the operators tearing out their own eyes as they catch me sunbathing nude.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Data collection en masse

              And if one of them is a gran who gets turned on by it?

  6. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    With my luck

    My package would end up in dog poo.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: With my luck

      Is that a Bullingdon club initiation?

  7. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    Typical Google

    From the Wing website: From our aircraft to our mobile applications and flight operations, safety and privacy are the guiding principles for everything we do. We’re committed to being transparent with you about our safety and privacy policies –– and we’re committed to being a true community partner that actively listens, responds, and respects your viewpoints.

    From the article: This comes after tormented Australians ran Wing out of Canberra after a 12-month trial along similar lines. Locals even formed a pressure group to try to halt Google's drones, complaining about high noise levels – with Google ignoring their feedback.

    Takeaway: Google's commitment to "being a true community partner" is as sincere as its commitment to privacy.

    1. Woodnag

      actively listens, responds, and respects your viewpoints

      They do. Then they ignore it.

  8. JohnFen Silver badge

    I wouldn't shoot it

    I wouldn't shoot it, but if I had to put up with the sound of those things near my home more than very occasionally, I might consider jamming it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A new surveillance variant..

    Wanna bet these things also "accidentally" collect radio data like WiFi?

  10. Scroticus Canis
    Meh

    Clickbait title - where's the guns in the article, where's the chasing?

    see title.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Weed delivery

    Is literally the only possible use case for drone delivery to make sense. So why are they trailing this in Virginia with what looks like consumerist crap, instead of Colorado?

  12. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    no shotguns, no cartrige weapons.

    One small supermagnet from an electric motor, and a slingshot.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Use what the local Traveling Gentlemen use.....

    Catapult and 6mm ball bearing.

    If you happen to disturb said Gentlemen hare coursing then you/car/house collect 6mm ball bearings.

    Anon 'cos the bar stewerds "enjoy" their sport far to close to my house.

  14. DougS Silver badge
    Trollface

    Lowering packages with a tether?

    That's pretty nice of them, lowering a line you can grab to capture your own drone. Order a $5 doodad from Amazon and get yourself a $500 drone for free! How long before someone hacks into its communication system and releases an app to control them?

    1. Winkypop Silver badge

      Re: Lowering packages with a tether?

      Drone fishing!

      But this time the target drops a line to you!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    By definition

    Drone: an unmanned aircraft

    Drone: an annoying prolonged sound

    Drone: an unquestioning follower

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    mmm of course you could wait until the tether is down and then tether the drone to a near by pole or large lump of concrete

  17. JulieM Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Ulterior Motive?

    Drone delivery is never going to work. The vehicles have to be lightly-built, which makes them vulnerable to attack; and they are carrying valuable payloads, which makes them attractive targets. There are people out there who don't like the noise, people who want the cargo for themselves and people who just want to spoil things for other people. It's a hostile environment, full of projectiles, RF jamming devices and nets.

    If (or more probably when) a drone delivery fails, you are out of pocket to the tune of a new drone; and even if you can make the drones cheaply enough to regard as disposable, you have to pay to replace the cargo

    Contrast this with a more traditional method of delivery, such as a human being on a bicycle; you only have to pay them when the item is successfully delivered, and (depending how you worded the contract of employment) you might even be able to recover the cost of the goods from them if the package goes astray. Which is less likely in the first place, because people are generally better defended, especially in more substantial vehicles than bicycles.

    If somebody is wanting drones filling the skies, you can be sure it's not really for delivering parcels.

  18. Mark192

    Drone delivery is cool but I'd not use it for the sake of the neighbours.

    I can see it being successful for businesses that need something fast - having couriers on hand to make an individual journey are expensive and noise is less of a consideration in non - residential areas and routing can be set to avoid them.

    I'd be interested to see how quiet they can make these - more than anything else it's noise that is their make - or - break.

  19. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    I hadn't considered the noise issue.

    Do I really want to live with noisy drones if my neighbor is getting shipments delivered all the time? I usually don't order a lot of stuff online, only getting 3 or 4 shipments of various stuff each year.

  20. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge

    Population density?

    In city centres with high rise blocks, I would expect that a van would be much more cost effective, allowing a lot of stuff to be delivered to effectively a single point in one go.

    In massively rural areas the delivery in a few minutes from order is a difficult concept. If the nearest town is 30 miles away the drone needs a range of 60 miles at high speed for each delivery.

    Small to medium towns plus suburbs of cities probably give the best population density coupled with individual properties having enough outside space for the delivery to be made. In weatherproof packaging, obviously. However to meet the "few minutes" delivery target the stock would have to be held locally which defeats the current centralised warehousing model.

    Expect the "few minutes" to morph into a few minutes after the monster delivery platform arrives within 5 miles of your location and starts firing off drones left right and centre. Amazon Prime "next day" delivery is already moving in this direction.

    Anyone who has watched good tracking information (DPD for example) will have seen the delivery truck arrive very locally hours before you get the package. The courier in two streets away and on delivery 23. You are delivery 76.

    Presumably this is still much cheaper than the van turning up in a local car park and a swarm of Deliveroo type cyclists rushing all the packages out at once. Which is more or less the drone model but with zero hour contract meatsacks.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: the stock would have to be held locally

      I totally agree. Amazon is surviving because is has vast central storage with high turnover. Turn that into many local storage points where 70% of the stock is just going to sit there and you are bleeding money.

      I can't see that this will work either on the drone side, or on the storage side.

  21. STOP_FORTH
    Joke

    Going forward?

    Are they still noisy when travelling backwards?

  22. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    I assume it will have a downward facing camera so when you approach the lowered tether be sure to have the very large umbrella open as you fasten it to the tether.

  23. rossde

    of course here in Australia we do have drone laws concerning drones that would need circumnavigating Most of the rules restrict where and when drones can be flown. What it all boils down to is that you must be able to see what you’re doing and not fly your drone where it could fall and hurt someone, damage something, intrude on privacy, or interfere with aircraft and emergency services.

    * You must not fly your drone more than 120m above the ground (about the height of a 35-storey building)

    * You must not fly your drone anywhere it could fail and fall, injuring a person or damaging property

    * You must not fly your drone within 30 metres of a person, at any height, at any time

    * You must not fly your drone in populous areas such as beaches, parks, roads, footpaths, or festivals and other crowded events

    * You can fly only one drone at a time

    * You must be able to see the drone with your own eyes at all times – not through another device

    * You can only fly your drone during the day, not in fog, and not behind trees or buildings that obscure it from view

    * You cannot fly your drone in prohibited or restricted airspace, or within 5.5 kilometres of a controlled aerodrome or airfield

    * You cannot fly your drone near emergency situations, including natural disasters or police operations

    How are the rules enforced?

    People who breach the rules are usually identified via CASA inspectors, reports from the public (which can be submitted to CASA online) or investigations by police.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      I guess there are rules for commercial drone use that are not as restricted. I know companies (and some people working in that field) that are doing surveying by drone, not limited to largely uninhabited areas.

  24. Tom 7 Silver badge

    2 to 3 pounds

    So that's my kebab order coming by bike still!

  25. KSM-AZ
    Mushroom

    The optimal projectile would be a paintball. Fire it with CO2, and relatively accurate. Bonus of knocking out the camera. Cheap and quiet. Bring 'em on!

  26. Charles 9 Silver badge

    FYI

    The chain involved in the deal is Walgreens, a drug store (read: chemist) chain, for product already available in store the way DoorDash and Postmaster works. For legal reasons, prescriptions cannot be delivered (many are controlled substances like painkillers), but common groceries are on the list. May not be worth stealing if the delivery's just munchies for the Sunday game. As for trying to steal the drone, consider anti-theft measures already in use for things like Bird/Lime scooters.

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