The Atlantic reports that Google's skunkworks Google X team has spent the last two years working on a secret programme. More than a silly stunt like the teaser Amazon pushed out earlier this year, Google appears to be serious about delivery in the air — getting products from the warehouse to their destination in about two minutes.
Alexis Madrigal has a very nice scoop about the secretive project. He reports that Google developed a special kind of unmanned aerial vehicle called a "tail sitter" that's specially designed for delivery.
...a hybrid of a plane and a helicopter that takes off vertically, then rotates to a horizontal position for flying around. For delivery, it hovers and winches packages down to the ground. At the end of the tether, there's a little bundle of electronics they call the "egg," which detects that the package has hit the ground, detaches from the delivery, and is pulled back up into the body of the vehicle.
That's an impressive-sounding design and if you head over to The Atlantic post and watch the embedded video, you actually get the sense that this could work. But can it work?
Madrigal reports that the project's main engineers believe that it's eminently possible that Google could create an UAV delivery service. This is all research for now, and there are difficulties to overcome, but drone delivery could be the real thing.
They have not built a reliable system Google users can order from yet, but they believe the challenges are surmountable. Now, Google will begin growing the program in an ultimate push to create a service that will deliver things people want quickly via small, fast "self-flying vehicles," as they like to call them.