Wing Opens The Skies For Drones With UTM

Yesterday Alphabet (formerly known as Google) announced that their Wing project is launching delivery services per drone in Finland, specifically in a part of Helsinki. This comes more than a month after starting a similar pilot program in North Canberra, Australia. The drone design Wing has opted for consists not of the traditional quadcopter design, but a hybrid plane/helicopter design, with two big propellers for forward motion, along with a dozen small propellers on the top of the dual body design, presumably to give it maximum range while still allowing the craft to hover.

With a weight of 5 kg and a wingspan of about a meter, Wing’s drones are capable of lifting and carrying a payload of about 1.5 kg. This puts it into a category of drones far beyond of what hobbyists tend to fly on a regular basis, and worse, it involves Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS for short) flying, which is frowned upon by the FAA and similar regulatory bodies. What Google/Alphabet figures that can enable them to make this kind of service a commercial reality is called Unmanned aircraft system Traffic Management (UTM).

UTM is essentially complementary to the existing air traffic control systems, allowing drones to integrate into these flows of manned airplanes without endangering either. Over the past years, it’s been part of NASA’s duty to develop the systems and infrastructure that would be required to make UTM a reality. Working together with the FAA and companies such as Amazon and Alphabet, the hope is that before long it’ll be as normal to send a drone into the skies for deliveries and more as it is today to have passenger and cargo planes with human pilots take to the skies.

7 thoughts on “Wing Opens The Skies For Drones With UTM

  1. This will work only if the FAA has similar requirements per RVSM and ADS-B and TCAs, and establishes separate ‘delivery corridors’ a la the Class A and B airspace restrictions (because GA craft cannot see and avoid these little things).

    1. I get that separation is the key issue here, but RVSM applies between FL290 and FL410 (essentially 29000 – 41000 feet for non aviation nerds) and is under positive control anyway. I’m not quite seeing the delivery drone threat to RVSM airspace.

      1. Good Grief. Yes I know. I said if it has SIMILAR REQUIREMENTS, it would probably be ok. I did not say, I did not infer, and I did not imply that any particular regulation for this mode of operation would be directly scoped by an existing administrative law.

        To wit, 14 CFR Part 91 appendix G is the reference; and it clearly indicates the scope of the particular clause.

        My gunny once said (back when the SJWs did not rule the federal government) that there was “too many stupid people, and not enough napalm.”

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