While there are many differences between the Amazon and Wing drones, there’s one key differentiator that may explain why one drone delivery company might be more successful than the other.
Wing, which is affiliated with Google, is one of the few drone delivery companies out there that has actually executed real deliveries to people’s homes — and not just as test flights. And it’s conducted thousands of deliveries at that.
Today, Wing says it crossed a milestone by completing nearly 100,000 deliveries. More than half of them occurred in just the past eight months, largely in Logan, Australia. And in just the second quarter of 2021, Wing completed more deliveries than it had throughout the entire course of 2020. And even that’s exponential growth, as Wing conducted 500% more deliveries in 2020 versus 2019.
And most of Wing’s 100,000 deliveries have been made to real customers. That’s in contrast to the many companies that have struggled to turn drone deliveries into viable business models beyond one-off stunt flights. In the early days, Reno, Nevada-based Flirtey was a famous offender of the “one-off” stunts despite taking credit for the first-ship-to-shore drone delivery, the first FAA-approved drone delivery to a customer’s home and the first urban drone delivery — all one-off events.
With its deliveries in Logan, theoretically anyone who downloads the app can make an order and have their item (generally fresh food products) sent to any of the 19 suburbs that wing serves within Logan.
“What distinguishes the Logan operation from the various tests and trials going on around the world, beyond its order volume, is that it is a live, automated, on-demand service,” according to a statement from Wing.
That’s key for customers, who may need reliable drone deliveries. Publicity stunts are fun — and can certainly serve purposes of their own — but don’t do much to indicate an infrastructure in place to actually make drone deliveries scalable. And even many of the other companies out there conducting larger-scale drone deliveries were still done under carefully controlled circumstances such as only a single item being delivered to a very niche group of people under extremely limited hours (like the COVID test kits being delivered by DroneUp in partnership with Walmart to select homes in Las Vegas).
Even Wing did commit the offense of one-off stunts in its early days, famously delivering Chipotle burritos via drone across no more than the span of a single hill.
And what was once thought to be the leader in drone delivery, Amazon, has been hit hard recently. Amazon is cutting more than 100 employees from a team that has been “collapsing inwards,” according to one report. The story, which was first told in Wired, indicates that the Amazon Prime Air future is highly uncertain at best, but is also “dysfunctional” and resembled “organized chaos.”
Wing says its operations are far from that.
“I’m sure you’ve seen some of the stories in the past few weeks about Amazon’s struggling drone delivery initiative,” a Wing spokesperson told The Drone Girl. “Wing’s delivery service, on the other hand, is growing faster than ever.”
Why is Wing focused on Logan, Australia?
Most of Wing’s drone flights are happening in Logan, which is the lesser-known neighbor of Brisbane, Australia, both of which are located in Queensland. Logan has a population of 300,000 and is one of the fastest growing cities in Australia.
“In many ways, Logan represents the drone delivery capital of the world, with residents in 19 suburbs able to order goods on-demand, via drone,” according to a prepared statement from Wing. “During one week in early August in Logan, we made nearly 4,500 deliveries — a record for us — and we continue to average thousands of deliveries each week.”
Australia has long been a focus country for U.S.-based Wing. Back in 2019, the company launched its Wing OpenSky app which was made for both recreational and commercial drone pilots — in close connection with Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) — which enables drone pilots to more easily carry out tons of tasks including see where they legally can and cannot fly drones, log their flights and more.
As far as Wing’s delivery ventures, most of the items being delivered in Logan are food products, though it also has other delivery partners such as a beauty supply store. Among the most fascinating or popular foods being delivered en masse in Logan, Australia are:
- 10,000 cups of coffee
- 2,700 sushi rolls
- 1,700 kid-focused snack packs
- 1,200 hot chooks (that’s Australian for roasted chicken)
- 1,000 loaves of bread
Logan residents ordered almost 4,500 deliveries in the first week of August, meaning that a Logan resident received a drone delivery nearly once every 30 seconds during the operation’s service hours.
Here are all of the retailers working with Wing in Logan as of August 2021:
Here’s how Wing’s drones work to delivery items to anyone who lives in an eligible area:
- A customer places an order online
- Wing’s software systems send the best aircraft to perform the delivery from among Wing’s multiple operations sites.
- Wing’s software systems use data about the operational environment including analyzing 15 million simulations each day to analyze changes in terrain, stress test its delivery systems and study the routing
- The software then automatically creates a custom route for the aircraft to follow to the spot the customer selects for delivery (such as their home or office).
Related read: 6 things to know about Wing delivery drones
What’s next for Wing drones?
“Logan’s success implies a not-too-distant future in which similar high-volume drone delivery services could be replicated in cities and metro areas around the world,” according to a Wing blog post shared today. The company said it expects to add not just new partners, but also new cities and even new technology.