Non-pharmaceutical measures like social distancing and dramatically limiting trips outside are changing how companies conduct their day-to-day business under this pandemic. Due to the coronavirus, some of these establishments are turning to more contemporary solutions, like drone deliveries. For Alphabet's Wing drone delivery service, this is good news. According to Business Insider and Bloomberg, customer sales have gone up since official lockdown orders took effect.
"The technology is particularly useful at a time when people are homebound in many cases and the need to limit human-to-human contact is important," Wing's spokesman Jonathan Bass tells Bloomberg. Of course, like any other tech service, Wing's deliveries are not perfect but it says it is helping bakeries, coffee shops, and even Walgreens and FedEx conduct business as usual, which can't be said for many other companies.
Now, here's the catch — Drone deliveries are adept at covering long distances over relatively short time given their featherlight weight and remarkable speed. For Wing's drones, covering six miles within minutes is easy thanks to the fact that they fly at 65 mph. Right now companies like FedEx and Walgreens along with local bakeries and coffee shops in various parts of Australia, Virginia, and Finland rely on Wing's technology to make sales.
One thing that doesn't work in Wing's favor is heavier deliveries. Customers have to be mindful of the items they get in a single purchase otherwise the drone can't make the trip. But it's a small issue given our current landscape; with orders for social distancing in place, contactless delivery during a pandemic could be beneficial at limiting person-to-person spread of the deadly virus.
Another issue is privacy. At the moment, despite having a full resource page dedicated to the subject, Wing is not clear about privacy concerns, including surveillance, potential trespassing, hacking, and noise. In September 2019, Wing acknowledged to The Washington Post that its drones had downward-facing cameras but the content mined was "only available to a small group of engineers for the purpose of analyzing safety and performance criteria." Still, security analysts worry that the drones can be hacked for other purposes.
Testing began last year — Wing began testing the grounds for commercial drone use in October, 2019. The company's director marketing and communications, Alexa Dennett, tells Business Insider that the company never pictured a scenario like COVID-19 but its services have proven to be of use for cities under lockdown.
"No one could have predicted coronavirus, but even we were surprised at the uptake of customers when ‘shelter in place’ came into Virginia," Dennett said. "It’s really early days so it’s hard to know how coronavirus will shape our business’ strategy [...] Ultimately we would love many more households around the US and the world to have access to our technology."