Drone delivery company confident of taking flight in Queensland
A Google-backed drone delivery company is confident it will be welcomed by south-east Queensland residents, after hitting some turbulence in its previous Australian rollout.
Wing is looking to set up operations in Logan with a proposed fleet of about 30 drones initially servicing the suburbs of Crestmead and Marsden.
Phil Swinsburg, Wing’s global head of flight operations, said they hoped to eventually expand to all of Logan and from there to other cities in south-east Queensland.
“The southern part of [greater] Brisbane is one of the fastest-developing areas in the country, and we want to offer a service that can complement the expanding nature of those suburbs,” Mr Swinsburg said.
The Logan rollout is yet to receive approval from the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority, which in April gave the green light to the company to begin operations in Canberra.
That followed an ACT inquiry into drones earlier in the year, which received numerous submissions from locals living in rural communities which were used as initial testbeds for the technology.
They said the service was noisy and an invasion of privacy, however local business groups backed it as a potential revenue stream.
Wing says it has been working to reduce the noise its drones produce, and Mr Swinsburg said they had been working closely with CASA to secure the approvals for the Logan rollout.
“We’re expecting the approvals to be similar to those which were given in Canberra,” he said.
“We’ve been working with CASA since 2013 and it’s been a great journey.”
The company’s head of Australian operations Terrance Bouldin-Johnson said they wanted to ensure they addressed any concerns Logan residents had with the service prior to the rollout.
“We want to make sure we’re taking community feedback on board, understanding exactly what they want and growing appropriately,” he said.
It comes after the Queensland government launched Australia’s first-ever drone strategy last year, as part of a broader push to embrace new and emerging technologies.
Innovation minister Kate Jones dismissed concerns about the service, claiming people had complained about planes when they were first introduced, and insisted the new service would be a “game changer”.
“What’s exciting is when I met with Google they made it very clear that up to 50 per cent or more of the goods and services available to the drones will be from local businesses,” Ms Jones said.
“When they had the pilot in Canberra they talked about the fact that this was a massive win for local shops and cafes in that area.”
Ms Jones said she believed the service would be in operation by September, with Wing saying it would like to be up and running before the end of the year, pending CASA approval.
For its part, Logan City Council is also very supportive of Wing, and is keen to facilitate community consultation on the new service.
“Council welcomes the news that Wing could soon establish their operation here and we’re looking forward to working with them through the development application and community engagement processes,” Council Director of Strategy and Sustainability David Hansen said.
There are currently about 12 vendors associated with Wing in Canberra, and the company says it is putting out an open call for local Logan businesses to sign up for the Queensland trial.
The service will be totally free for users during the trial stage, however Wing said they would eventually introduce a payment scale once the service was established.
Residents who sign up for the initial trial will be given access to the Wing app and will be able to order goods delivered by drone directly to their door.
However, the drones will not be abolishing a trip to the shops for groceries, with a maximum payload of 1.5 kilograms, enough to carry small deliveries such as fast food or non-prescription medicine.
They are also expected to only be allowed to fly during the day, with the current CASA approval for the Canberra trial banning night flying.
Stuart Layt covers health, science and technology for the Brisbane Times. He was formerly the Queensland political reporter for AAP.