My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How @Google X Labs Project Wing uses Global Satellite Network for Drone Delivery

Friday, August 29, 2014

How @Google X Labs Project Wing uses Global Satellite Network for Drone Delivery

Google is now Googling Amazon PrimeAir. Only their ambitions seem geared not at becoming a Same-day Delivery company, but basically killing off the Package Delivery Industry.

Well folks, the secret is out! Introducing Project Wing, their simply titled Drone Delivery Research Project, from Down Under!

Project Wing is yet another Google X Labs secret Projects led by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) aeronautics Professor Dr. Nick Roy who has been working on Project Wing for the past two years as stated in the article “Google spreads its wings, moves into Drone deliveries”, published August 28, 2014 4:44 PM PDT by Richard Nieva and Seth Rosenblatt, CNET News and “Google tests drone deliveries in Project Wing trials”, published 28 August 2014 Last updated at 22:00 GMT By Jack Stewart, BBC News.

Secret until now, that is!

They’ve been testing it in Australia, as it’s the only place in the world that allows Commercial Drone Testing.  Zookal, the Australian Drone Deliver service for College Students textbooks, stands as a shining example of Australia Forward Thinking on drones as described in my blog article entitled “SF Express Drones in China Deliver Cake and Zookal Drones deliver Rental Textbooks - How Drones and smartphones in Jamaica can revive the Postal Service via Personal One-Day Delivery Service”.

This would put them in direct competition with Amazon's Prime Air, Amazon's ambitious Project to have same-day deliveries of 5 lb and have a range of 10 km or more within 30 minutes as detailed in my blog article entitled “Amazon plans to launch Amazon PrimeAir, their 30 minute Drone Package Delivery Service for Amazon Prime users - Playing Catch-up as Mailpak launches DealBug in Jamaica”.

But is that their main use of Drones? Or is Google aiming a little higher than just the consumer market?

Google Project Wing – Google’s jumping the gun as Commercial Drones Flights start in 2015

Clearly, Google is anticipating the coming of Commercial Drone usage within the Continental United States of America as they are falling behind the rest of the World that has lax Aviation regulations on Drone usage.  Especially as the oversight for Drone developement and eventual usage in the US of A is now in President Barack Obama's Executive Order Crosshairs as stated in the article “President Obama To Kick Off Drone Privacy Guidelines”, published JUL 24, 2014 by  LAUREN ORSINI, ReadWrite.

Thus the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) may be relieved of their responsibility as it relates to developing Drone Privacy Policy even as they have research ongoing as it relates to Aviation Guidelines for the Commercial Drone usage in the US of A as stated in my blog article entitled “FAA ok’s Drones for Hobbyist – Study to determine Commercial Drone Risk as Amazon, UPS and FedEx Drones get the Kibosh until 2015”.

Hence the timing of this revelation by Google, so much so that it even caught the Jamaica Observer’s eye as noted in the article “Google building fleet of package-delivering Drones”, published Thursday, August 28, 2014 8:02 PM, The Jamaica Observer.

But clearly Google X Labs plans to commercialize these Drones, much as they’ve planned to do with Google Glass and their other Google X Labs Projects. So how is this Drone designed differently? And who exactly are their potential clients?

Google X Labs Project Wing – An Airplane Drone is basically an Osprey VTOL Drone

Sorry I did that, but I couldn’t resist. Yes, Project Wing is basically a VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing) Drone. It’s a 5” wingspan flying wing that weight in on the hefty side of 19lbs. It’s got propellers like a regular airplane Drone and can fly like one, possibly Lithium-Ion Powered or using Ethanol or Methanol based fuel. Based on its range and weight it’s most likely the former, as it lends credence to the idea that it may also have a future design upgrade where it’ll be solar-powered.

The Video below illustrates this well.

What makes it unique though it that its propellers can tilt upwards, enableing it to land and take off vertically. Even more interesting is that just like a Quadracopter (4-propellers), Hexacopter (6-wings) or even an Octacopter (8-wings), it can stop in mid-flight and hover like a helicopter.

This option in its design means it can travel great distance more quickly to its plane configuration and once it’s at its destination, convert to a hovering Helicopter and do the Delivery.

From the video, though, Google X Labs clearly have their work cut out for them, as they have to perfect that Delivery system as from the video that cannot be used to deliver breakables like Eggs or Wine. But it’s an interesting design and it’s a lot different from Amazon PrimeAir, which according to their video, has to actually land before taking off.

A hovering Delivery means that potentially, it can instead of using a rope, the supplies can be airdropped, resulting in faster deliveries, especially if the Delivery area is somewhere in the Wilderness or a war torn area.

The way it works is an amalgam of a traditional Drone Delivery system, if I can say that, and the use of a catapult as a Delivery system for products that Groupon amusingly proposed in my blog article entitled “Groupon’s Trebuchet Catapult response to Amazon PrimeAir has Wings – Automated Capsule System Package Delivery From our Dungeon to your Doorstep”.

Google X Labs Project Wing – A Self-Flying Osprey that’s a Global Spy Plane

The Semi-Autonomous part is also not surprising, as if Robots are set to take over the World, then Semi-Autonomous Deliver Drones will be their vanguard as argued in my blog article entitled Fast Food Robot taking over by 2017 - How Drones like Amazon and PrimeAir and not Humanoid Robots will be the first Robots by 2015”.

What is interesting though is the range of these Drones under Project Wing. If it can carry more than 5 lb and have a range greater than 10 km or more within 30 minutes, it’ll attract a lot of International buyers, as at those ranges, it’ll be the rough equivalent of a Military Drone but with Commercial Drone Applications.

Being a Solar powered VTOL Drone with the ability to fly around the World would also make it the perfect low-cost spy plane. As Google might soon have their own Satellite Broadband Network, they can competitively price their Project Wing Product, even providing such services such as real time aerial photography of anywhere in the World for a very low price, even lower than Private or Government Satellites.

Clearly Google isn’t going to use this to do deliveries, especially as they already have a fleet of 100 Semi-Autonomous Self Driving All-Electric Vehicles that can fill that space by 2015 as described in my blog article entitled Google 100 strong Fully Autonomous All-Electric Vehicles launched – 25 mph Limit on AI Chauffeur in 2015 with Black Boxes makes Crashes like aeroplanes”?

Ok, so given its capabilities, who would be Google’s potential clients?

Google’s Project Wing Clients – UAE’s competitor for Government, Enterprise, NGO and Humanitarian  

This can be determined form their past products.

The uber-secretive Academia based Google X Labs has already produced some very forward-thinking ideas, such as Google Glass, which is to be commercially launched next year as stated in my blog article entitled “Google Glass launched early as a Product - Google pre-empting Samsung Galaxy Glass and Facebook's Oculus Rift replacing the smartphone in 2015 the Year of the Sheep”.

They’re geared at consumers, but privacy issues will makes this a slow-starter by 2015, even if Google’s partnership with Luxottica can make their Borg-Glasses fashionable as pointed out in my blog article entitled “Google Glass partners with Luxottica to design Google Glasses for 2015 Launch - Google Glass now on the Path to going Mainstream with US$199 Glasses”.

However, Doctors have taken a liking to it, with the UC Irvine School of Medicine becoming the first to incorporate Google Glass into their Doctor training curriculum as described in my blog article entitled “US$1500 Google Glass for UC Irvine School of Medicine is also on Sale to Public - Ramp up for 2015 Public Launch as UWI Med Sci Students have Tablets but no Glass”.

The US Air Force is also interested and is currently testing Google Glass with the aim to design Army-grade applications that would customize the product to be used in the field as noted in my blog article entitled “US Air Force testing the use of Google Glass in Combat - Helping Professionals on the Front Lines of their respective fields”. These are just a few of the potential clients for Google Glass alone, as other applications for Field Engineers, Delivery Services, and Security Services and even among the police are possible.

They also plan to launch 100 Semi-Autonomous Self Driving All-Electric Vehicles as well that, albeit only driving as fast as 25mph, may make them a competitor to taxi drivers and concierge services in 2015 as described in my blog article entitled Google 100 strong Fully Autonomous All-Electric Vehicles launched – 25 mph Limit on AI Chauffeur in 2015 with Black Boxes makes Crashes like aeroplanes”.

Finally, most recently, they've also been whispers about them deploying  a fleet of Low Altitude Circular Orbit satellites to set up a Satellite Broadband Network to compete with AT&T’s plans to use DirecTV to do likewise as explained in my blog article entitled “Google and O3B Network Limited partner on Satellite Broadband Project – How to set up a Satellite Broadband Network

That last Project may be related to Project Wing. This as a Satellite Broadband Network could conceivably be used to provide Telemetry as well as Video, Audio and Transponder uplink for their Project Wing Drones, making it possible for their potential clients to control their Drones anywhere anytime. This is a power only the US Military has. 

Thus their plans, albeit more on the humanitarian side and seemingly focused more on the Delivery supplies and equiptment during a disaster, has Military Applications. In short, their Project Wing potential clients seem to be the US Government, Corporate and Enterprise, NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) and Humanitarian Agencies.

This seems to be the same type of client base that the ambitious the UAE (United Arab Emirates) is targeting using their very lazy way via global Drones for Good Competition as described in my blog article entitled “United Arab Emirates starts Drones for Good Competition - How Jamaica can jumpstart Drone Designs as UAE pursues Lazy route to the Google of Drone Design and Application”.

Google X Labs Project Wing – How to own a Global Private Semi-Autonomous Drone Delivery Service

Bodies such as these tend to need Drones that are Semi-autonomous, Robust enough to deliver large items quickly but do not require an airstrip to land. In essence, Google isn't going into the Package Delivery business like Amazon, UPS or even the FedEx as they plan to do when Commercial Drones are legitimized in 2015 as I'd detailed in my blog article entitled UPS and FedEx developing their Own Delivery Drones to compete with Amazon PrimeAir - Premium Rush Package Delivery Drones herald the coming of Google's Personal Androids that are Almost Human”.

Like their strategy partnership with HP (Hewlett Packard) to introduce Google Now Voice Assistant services to search Enterprise and Corporate Cloud Platforms as detailed in my blog article entitled “HP and Google partner on Google Now – How Galaxy Alpha's Metallic Charms woo Corporate and Enterprise marriage made in Fragmented Heaven”, they’re basically making it possible for anyone with enough money to start their own Drone Deliver Services.

A low-cost solar Powered VTOL Drone that can carry more than 5 lb  and travel for miles, possibly circumnavigating the World without refueling will definitely attract a lot of buyers. Using Google’s Satellite Network as their Video and Audio Uplink eyes-and ears, it’ll be a Military Drone but with Commercial Drone Applications.

In essence, Google X Labs Project Wing will make anyone, anywhere in the World have their own Private Semi-Autonomous Drone Delivery Service…or Army

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