For the past 18 months, Project Wing, created by Google’s parent company Alphabet, has been testing out drone delivery services in Australia for food and drinks, medication and other locally-made goods such as coffee and chocolate, to the communities of Fernleigh Park, Royalla and Bonython.
The company has been testing out drone delivery in Australia since 2014 and, as of Tuesday, the Australian aviation authority gave Wing the permission to launch a commercial service, after assessing that the trial period proved to be safe for the residents and aircraft.
However, the drones will not be allowed to travel everywhere as they please: they will only be allowed to fly during the day, but not before 08:00 AEST, on the weekend and they also don’t have permission to fly over crowds or main roads and need to maintain a minimum distance from the people on the ground.
Even so, the drones did attract some complaints from the residents of Bonython, Canberra, who said that the machines were noisy and intrusive and could be heard from “a long way off, both coming and leaving“.
“From a quarter past seven in the morning we’d hear our first drone flyover and you won’t be able to sleep for the rest of the day because the drones are flying from 7am to 4pm.” some residents said.
A number of people even formed an action group called Bonython Against Drones and got over 500 people to sign a petition that demanded the drones to be banned. According to another resident, around 80% of the people living in the suburb were opposed to the presence of the drones.
“What concerns residents is that the drones are fitted with cameras and it records data,” another resident pitched in “We don’t know what’s happening with that data. The visual landscape of Canberra is about to be changed forever in a negative way and that really concerns us because what we’re used to as a bush capital is fresh air, clear skies and the sound of nature and we’re about to lose that.”
On the other hand Tuggeranong resident Jamie Hengst said she uses the service regularly and that “the little bit of noise you get for five minutes is totally worth it” because the drones can deliver food that’s not usually available in the area in just 10 minutes.
Hengst was also adamant about cooling down the worried voices who spoke about data recording: “the drones run by GPS so there are no cameras whatsoever.”
Wing Chief Executive Officer James Ryan Burgess was quick to respond to the noise complains regardless and said that the company has taken the issue into consideration and developed a quieter drone, which has been approved for use by the aviation authority and will be demonstrated to the residents soon.