Google has been given the green light to test delivery drones in the US as it follows Amazon into the airborne fulfilment market.
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has been granted permission by the US’s Federal Aviation Administration to pilot the use of drones weighing less than 25kg in designated areas, as part of Project Wing.
It comes just a week after online rival Amazon was given the go ahead to carry out similar drone tests around Cambridge, after the etail titan struggled to get its plans through the US regulators.
However, the White House has introduced a swathe of measures to encourage the drone industry, which has a potential global value of £96bn according to forecasts by PwC.
Google’s Project Wing, which unveiled prototype drones with a 5ft wingspan last year, will carry out trial deliveries with drones in six approved test ranges as the company aims to develop unmanned aircraft that can fly autonomously.
Its drones are understood to be able to fly at 60mph and have a larger wingspan to create lift and transition to horizontal flight like a normal aircraft. By contrast, Amazon’s models rely on helicopter-style propellers to fly.
Google also plans to fit the drones with radio transponders that broadcast their location and let other aircraft know where they are, even though they will operate below 400ft – below the height at which manned aircraft generally fly.
Head of Project Wing Dave Vos told Bloomberg he did not see any issues with allowing drones and manned aircraft to operate within the same airspace.
He said: “The way I think about these issues, I don’t think about the problems. I think about the solutions that we can bring to bear.”