Drone Delivery Service Wing Gets More Flight Freedom


Another incremental increase in delivery drone autonomy is being hailed as big improvement in efficiency for the fledgling services. Wing Delivery, which is owned by Google parent company Alphabet, says the FAA is now allowing its drones to operate beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) without human observers. According to DroneLife, the FAA has given Wing a summary grant of an exemption to operate the drones with that extra level of autonomy without having to go through a long analysis. It means it can expand its delivery footprint and expand to new markets. Wing is used by clients to deliver small packages and fast food.

A key part of its autonomous operation is the use of ADS-B to first assess the airspace for potentially conflicting traffic. Then it uses detect-and-avoid technology to keep any eye out for threats while en route. “Overall, the FAA’s approval for DAA and recognition of broader strategic deconfliction and UTM (Unmanned Aircraft Traffic System Management) applications will allow us to operate more efficiently and work toward scaled operations nationwide.” The first deployment of the new freedom will be in Dallas/Fort Worth and its suburbs, which will become a template for operations in other urban areas.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. And what if a non-electrical (hence non ADS-B out) aircraft is flying within the DFW Class B mode C veil legally? Will the delivery service drone’s dependance on the ADS-B system cause a safety concerns? As a reference non engine-driven electrical aircraft cannot be equipped with ADS-B out even if they wanted to because the rule’s “always on” mandate is incompatible with a total-waste battery system. What about the drones getting shot down by birds, kites, RC aircraft or golf balls?

    • Drone detect and avoid tech has come on leaps and bounds in the last two years. Small little button radars and ultra sonic units, let equipped drones move at speed through woods.
      So operators must think, and have convinced regulators, that a big, noisy Cub trundling around will not be a problem for the drone to avoid.
      As for shooting down risk, surely everyone knows it is illegal to shoot at aircraft — or even hit golf balls at them…

      • It does not really address the issue of when the burger is removed for a half pound of explosive and detonator. Perhaps programmed to find your phone.

  2. That’s it … I’m moving to Ft Worth. Nothing better than being able to use an app to satiate a sudden hankering for a Big Mac and then — by the time I walk to the front porch — a mosquito quickly delivers it vice me driving a few blocks to find one of the thousands of brick and mortar restaurants on every corner (sic). Instant gratification … it’s a wonderful thing. And … think of the “green” aspect of such an operation — I won’t have to fire up my EV — while simultaneously cutting down on local traffic jams. Hallelujah … the planet is saved. Who’da thunk that UAS would find such a niche reason for being. Sigh. NOW, the big question is … do I have to tip the drone/operator … and who gets the tip or is it shared? Thank goodness for the forward quick thinking of the folks on Independence Ave, too. No wonder they broke MOSAIC and drone Regulations apart. Genius.

    • OMG … the story just got BETTER! I just learned that the world’s first total AI powered restaurant has opened up in Pasadena, CA. Think of it … with just a few swipes of my finger, a robot named “Flippy” can cook up my Waygo burger, I pay with PopID (with my thumb print) and then, Flippy’s cousin — the UAS — can fly it to me in no time. I never thought I’d live to see this day. AND — OH THE IRONY! — this restaurant is located on Green Street. Now we need to think of a catchy name for the UAS. How’s about ‘Dippy?’


        • Yup! 🙂 Note the time. I awoke wide awake, found this theme and was off and running. I was roaring with laughter in the process … one of the joys I get from marrying Avweb’s articles with my wry sense of irreverent humor.

          SAY … I’m gonna start a food delivery business at Airventure … eVTOL delivery of pizzas from the new vertiport. Pilots can send their orders via text with precise lat/long and … poof … their AI made food shows up no matter where they are. It’ll have to be after 8pm, however, so there’ll be no traffic conflicts.

  3. Sad to say the most powerful defender of manned aviation is probably the litigation and insurance industry…without a pilot to act as the autonomous UAV fault “fusible link” the deep pockets who develop the algorithms are at risk…you may have noticed some recent events in the autonomous car world that reflect that corporate concern.

  4. I’ve noticed that the hype over drones has declined dramatically in recent months, an indication that investor (sucker) money is drying up as they admit there is very little real demand for drone delivery. The same for eVTOLs. I suspect that some drone makers are looking at another lucrative market in 2024 – chasing Trump supporters around as the FBI has been doing the past few years.

  5. It’s my considered opinion that the pictured drone’s delivery pod/external stores bears a troubling resemblance to Monty Python’s 16 Ton Weight.

  6. That’s the Wing Delivery Hummingbird, which is electrically powered, so range is pretty limited. I think the range on this one is 6 miles. They fly around 65 mph so that means flight time is about 22 minutes. I only get a maximum of 30 minutes flight time out of all the drones that I’ve flown. Battery technology is going to have to become much better before we see these things in widespread use. Launch points have to be located within 11 minutes of the customers. It probably makes economic sense for Google and Amazon to avoid dealing with drivers and trucks for that last 6 mile delivery but self-driving car technology has repeatedly demonstrated that sensors and software are not yet ready for the real world. It’s a Catch-22 situation since only by operating them in the real world will sensors and software get better, but there will be accidents and legal challenges before they become widespread.

    • The range is twelve miles round trip, and the speed is 65 mph – but if you expect 22 minutes of flight time, you may wish to brush up on your fuel management skills…

      [The correct answer is 12.]

    • Lots could go wrong, just as lots could go wrong with a UPS truck driving to your house. Risk will always be with us; the goal is to mitigate it to a level that is acceptable.

      In this case, Wing had to convince the FAA risk was, indeed, sufficiently mitigated. I would assume that having over 350,000 deliveries under your belt helped their case.

  7. So I could have that monstrosity deliver me a pizza?
    Wonder how the neighbors will react to the noise. They get upset when a plane flies over at 5000 MSL much less something that sounds like a hive of angry hornets hovering over my front driveway.

    • They will no doubt be upset – after all, they get upset when a plane flies over at 5000 MSL.

      Offer them a slice.

  8. I’m usually on board with everyone commenting here on a Pilot’s news media outlet but, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a game changer. Over the past couple years AI technology has accelerated rapidly and it’s not slowing down in the least. There’s nothing I want to say good about “Pilot-Less Aircraft” but, AI is bringing Aviation to the other 7 Billion people on the planet. The Million of us who like to yank and bank well, we’re just not going to matter much in the near future. 😧

    Doesn’t mean we can’t keep posting our anti-AI opinions though 😏.

  9. I’m going to guess that that thing or others have enough avoidance technology that it will match or exceed the awareness of many, many of today’s glass pilots who seldom ever look out of the cockpit.

  10. Ya’ll should read this article from uAvionix about “electronic conspicuity” and ADS-B as “drone repellent” written just last month:


    IF this were implemented, non-electrical airplanes would be “squaking” on 978MHz and the problem would mostly be solved.