Google test drone shown releasing a package.
A secretive “Google X” team has been working for two years on Project Wing, a drone-based delivery system not unlike the drones that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced last year.
But until yesterday we didn’t know what Google’s timeline was for the drone delivery service. Now Reuters has reported that during a lunchtime keynote address to the 60th ATCA (Air Traffic Control Association) Annual Conference, Dave Vos, who leads Google’s Project Wing, told attendees that Google’s goal is to have commercial business up and running in 2017 and that the company was working with the FAA and industry experts to set up an air traffic control system for drones using cellular and Internet technology to coordinate unmanned aerial vehicle flights at altitudes under 500 feet.
Google later confirmed the comments, but noted that the timeline is a “hope” rather than a pledge.
The Google test vehicle has been reported to consist of four electrically-driven propellers and has a wingspan of about five feet; the drone weighs around 20 pounds (so it won’t be delivering a 65-inch 4K TV). Its onboard payload consists of cameras, GPS, radios, and a sensor package that's made up of accelerometers and gyroscopes to help the craft determine its positioned.
Google acknowledges that regulatory approval remains a substantial hurdle. In September California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation that would have restricted the flying of drones lower than 350 feet over private property without the owner's permission, but Federal rules are still pending.