Google, Mercedes-Benz, and more compete with Amazon in the drone delivery race

Amazon’s drone delivery system, Prime Air, is designed to get packages weighing up to five pounds to customers in 30 minutes or less, and though the company touts the service’s increased safety and convenience, critics consider a future filled with aerial data-gathering devices to be a scary invasion of privacy. That’s not stopping others from experimenting in the space, as delivery gradually moves from the streets to the skies.


Project Wing, the drone-flying concept from Google's parent company, is pairing with Australian Tex-Mex food chain Guzman y Gomez to experiment with drone delivery for the restaurant's burritos and other menu items. Customers in Australia are helping test the delivery system by purchasing items via an app that are then delivered to their backyard or doorstep, creating a Seamless-like experience with increased speed and accuracy. Thinking bigger than burritos, Project Wing envisions a future in which such aircraft can deliver everything from consumer goods to emergency medicine, opening up universal access to the sky.


Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz Vans teamed up with e-commerce startup siroop and drone logistics provider Matternet to kick off a pilot of its van-based drone concept in Zurich with a coffee delivery demonstration for the media. Per TechCrunch, the drone flies to its destination before descending to land on the roof of a Mercedes-Benz van (reminiscent of the vehicles portrayed in Blade Runner 2049), which emits a signal to guide it in precisely and take over from GPS. The van driver then retrieves the package—in this case, coffee—and delivers it to the receiver’s door. The package was opened to show that no sleight of hand or spillage occurred along the way.


Most drone delivery services are restricted by the need to deliver to a specific address, but UK-based product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants created DelivAir to circumvent this challenge and deliver packages directly to the consumer’s hands. The company’s patent-pending two-stage routing process starts by using GPS to navigate to a user's smartphone location, periodically requesting secure location updates during the flight until it arrives within visual range. The drone then switches to precision optical tracking and a 3D imaging and ranging system to locate and authenticate the recipient.