Google reveals Project Wing drone trials & prototypes

Google is the latest tech giant to enter the drone market, after announcing that it's been researching the use of self-flying vehicles to deliver goods for two years.

The work is being carried out by the search firm's Google X arm as part of its Project Wing initiative, and the firm has already built and tested a prototype of the device.

The Google prototype drone is white, has a wingspan of 1.5 metres and features four propellers.

Google announced details of the initiative in a video, where Project Wing founder Nicholas Roy said: "It's years from a product, but it is the first prototype we want to stand behind."

Similar technology was mooted by Amazon in late 2013, with the firm's chief Jeff Bezos saying it could help revolutionise the way it delivers products to its customers.

Astro Teller, captain of moonshots at Google, said, in the video, the project's aim is to reduce the "friction" involved with shipping items across the globe.

"Throughout history there have been a series of innovations that have taken a huge chunk of the friction out of moving things around," he said.

"Project Wing aspires to take another big chunk of the remaining friction out of moving things around in the world," he added.

However, Google told the BBC its long-term goal for the project is to use drones to deliver disaster relief products to isolated areas in need.

"Even just a few of these, being able to shuttle nearly continuously could service a very large number of people in an emergency situation," Teller told the BBC.

It also reports the technology was initially intended to aid the delivery of defibrillators to heart attacks victims.

"When you have a tool like this you can really allow the operators of those emergency services to add an entirely new dimension to the set of tools and solutions that they can think of," explained Project Wing leader Dave Vos.

Amazon's efforts in this area have run into trouble of late, with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) claiming the use of unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes in illegal.

This is one of the reasons why Google is thought to have favoured Queensland, Australia, as a testing site for its drones, where they have been used to ferry objects from one property to another.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.