Paul Sensmeier broke his leg earlier this year. His wife of fifty years, Susie, had a birthday coming up, so instead of going to a physical store, he ordered a gift for her, which would arrive to his home via Fedex.
But this FedEx delivery was different. The last leg of the delivery, traditionally done via drone, was done with a drone.
That Wing drone delivery was among the first of what will likely be hundreds of drone deliveries directly to U.S. homes. Wing, the drone arm affiliated with X, the company formerly known as Google, earlier this year received an expanded Air Carrier Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration FAA, that allows it to significantly increase the scope of its drone deliveries, beyond just one-off tests.
The new crop of deliveries are being brought to residents of Christiansburg, Virginia. Christiansburg has been a part of the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program for a while now due to a partnership with Virginia Tech and Virginia Tech’s Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), located in nearby Blacksburg. The Wing deliveries are partnering with Fedex, Walgreens and a small retailer called Sugar Magnolia to deliver products to people’s homes, and Christiansburg residents can sign up to be a part of the program here.
For the Sensmeiers, Wing’s convenience was a big part of their interest in getting the birthday gift delivered by drone.
“It’s not always easy getting up and getting out,” Susie Sensmeier said. “Paul broke his leg in June. We know what it’s like to feel stuck sometimes.”
With the new Wing drone delivery permissions from the FAA, the company can now have multiple pilots oversee multiple unmanned aircraft, making commercial deliveries for the general public much more scalable.
Wing’s drones deliver products through a controlled dropping mechanism, so the drone never has to land in people’s yards. Instead, upon arrival, the aircraft gently lowers the package to a small, designated location in the yard or driveway, before returning to Wing’s headquarters in North Christiansburg.