Alphabet's Wing to take off in Finland

The autonomous drone delivery service is launching in the Helsinki area in spring of 2019.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

Alphabet-owned Wing is launching its first operations in Europe, bringing its autonomous drone delivery service to Finland in the spring of 2019. The service will start with a small trial in the Helsinki area, Wing announced Tuesday.

"Finns are internationally renowned for being early-adopters of new technologies, and we're looking forward to working with the community and local businesses to find the best way to implement our services," the company says on its website.

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Wing's drones can fly about 20 km round trip, and they can carry packages that weigh up to 1.5 kg. Customers will be able to order a range of items for delivery using the Wing app. The company is currently surveying customers on the sort of items they'd like delivered, such as groceries, meals, over-the-counter medicine or "emergency" items like diapers.

Before the commercial launch, Wing is conducting test flights to assess their drones' ability to deliver in different weather conditions. "Based on what we know about the winter weather in Finland, we're pretty confident that if our drones can deliver here, they can deliver anywhere!" the website says.

Wing was initially part of Google's X division, which focuses on "moonshot"-style projects. In July, Wing began operating as an independent company under the Alphabet Other Bets group, which also includes the balloon-based internet project Loon, self-driving car specialist Waymo, health company Verily and cybersecurity outfit Chronicle.

The Other Bets group isn't exactly a money-maker: In Alphabet's last reported quarter, the category brought in $146 million in revenues with operating losses of $727 million. Still, Wing contends that drone delivery will gain traction as a safer, faster and more environmentally friendly alternative to ground delivery.

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The company has spent 18 months trialling drone delivery in southeastern Australia, and in 2016 it partnered with Chipotle to trial burrito deliveries in the US. Drone delivery services in the US have been hampered by FAA regulations, which mandate that commercial drones remain 500 feet from non-participating structures and people.

Still, some innovative use cases have started in the US -- the Drone logistics company Flytrex recently announced a partnership with drone company EASE Drones to bring an on-green sandwich and beverage service to a golf course in North Dakota.

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