Frisco, Texas, which is a city promising part of the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex, as well as the nearby town of Little Elm, are set to get drone delivery. That’s all thanks to a major U.S. expansion by Wing, the drone-focused sibling company of Google.
Wing this week announced plans over the coming months to expand its residential drone delivery operations in the U.S. to the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. That makes Dallas the first major metro in the U.S. and the largest overall metro area to be participating in drone deliveries.
With a name like Dallas on its map comes a big leap for Wing, which — until now — has primarily been only operating in smaller towns, where land usage and the airspace above is less crowded and complex. Now, Wing has a chance to prove its capabilities in more challenging, urban environments too. Prior to this week’s Texas news, the majority of Wing operations have taken place in Logan, Australia, which is still a relatively small area in the Brisbane region.
For now, residents in certain areas of both the city of Frisco and the neighboring town of Little Elm, will be able to get items delivered from Walgreens. Wing will set up a small shipping container located at existing Walgreens stores to deploy their drones. Essentially, that makes shipping containers tiny aircraft hangars.
Though, don’t expect just any Frisco resident to easily get drone deliveries to their homes. Wing said it’ll begin a small number of test flights next week in Frisco and Little Elm, with hopes to set up delivery demonstrations where it’ll gather feedback from the community in the coming weeks. Fro there, Wing says it anticipates launching wider-spread commercial service in the coming months.
New to the usual Wing deliveries is that — for the first time — Walgreens employees (rather than Wing personnel) will be the ones processing and loading packages onto the delivery drones. This could be a crucial step in enabling Wing to scale operations, as people already employed by stores could help operate the drones rather than rely on Wing to grow its own staff.
For now, however, Wing’s certified pilots will continue to be responsible for overseeing all flight operations, a Wing spokesperson told The Drone Girl. While the Walgreens team members who are loading the drones will be trained on that part of the process, they won’t be overseeing flights and therefore won’t need to be certified pilots under the FAA’s Part 107, which requires one pilot in command to hold a Remote Pilot Certificate.
If these tests are successful, then eventually Wing could roll out such containers to other brick and mortar stores, enabling any small business to easily deploy small drones from parking lots, roofs or other small spaces adjacent to the building.
It also is another example of Wing continuing to iterate on its delivery launching model — and choice of locations to launch its drones. Wing just a few weeks ago launched a separate operating model where it flies merchandise and food from the rooftop of the Grand Plaza Mall in Logan, Australia directly to customers’ homes or other businesses.
In addition to the Walgreens news, Wing also revealed that it has partnered with Hillwood to have a delivery facility at Frisco Station, which is a mixed-use development and local tourism destination north of Dallas that will not offer Wing’s standard delivery capabilities, but also explore new use cases, and even host community demonstrations, through things such as school field trips and public tours.
Despite sometimes being portrayed as simply a bedroom community for professionals working in the DFW area, Frisco, Texas has proven itself to be a pretty tech-forward city on its own. The city has welcomed the expansion of many major tech companies, including hosting a relatively large Oracle office, as well as the offices of real estate tech player Redfin.
Wing has been on a tear lately. Just a couple months ago, Wing crossed the 100,000 delivery milestone. And beyond conducting drone deliveries, Wing also operates the OpenSky app, which is free for download and allows drone pilots to more easily carry out tons of tasks including see where they legally can and cannot fly drones, get LAANC permissions and log their flights.