The subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, held a town hall on Oct. 28 at the George A. Purefoy Municipal Center. More details were shared on Wing’s delivery drones about a week after the company announced its entry into Frisco, and questions were fielded from area residents. No service start date was announced.
Styrofoam drones airlifted by 12 propellers each will soon deliver roughly 100 different over-the-counter items from Walgreens to single-family homes in Frisco and Little Elm. A fleet of six drones will “nest” at a west Frisco-area Walgreens on Eldorado Parkway, according to Jacob Demmitt, Wing marketing and communications manager.
Select Frisco and Little Elm residents will be able to download the Wing app on both Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store for service, Demmitt said. Employees at the Frisco-area Walgreens will load non-prescription medicine, food items, toys and more onto the drones. The delivery units will cruise about 150 feet above ground at a speed of around 65 miles per hour, generating noise “equivalent to a conversation.”
“What we're doing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is the first-ever, truly store-to-door drone delivery service,” Demmitt said.
Wing is also in partnership with Hillwood to prepare a separate drone delivery facility within the mixed-use development Frisco Station. For now, the second facility is focused on exploring new use cases and holding community demonstrations.
Questions asked both via Facebook Live stream and in person inquired over drone safety, efficiency and eventual service expansion plans. Residents wanted to know about “failsafes” to prevent drones crashing into individuals, buildings and cars.
Demmitt said Wing’s flight planning software can detect locations of obstacles and navigate around them. In addition, Wing head of flight operations Mark Blanks said low-resolution cameras incapable of capturing high-quality imagery of individuals are a backup to Wing’s GPS software.
The drones also weigh less than 10 pounds, Blanks said, and are designed to shatter upon impact to minimize injury risk.
“The aircraft is really designed so that if any condition like that happened, it would not harm a person severely,” he said. “It’s basically a bike helmet flying around.”
The up-to 50-mph winds observed around DFW on Oct. 28 were discussed at the town hall, which raised questions on drone resiliency through harsh weather conditions.
Blanks said the drones can handle “very strong” conditions, but described an extra-cautious approach. A team of pilots will oversee weather forecasts and determine whether to temporarily halt orders.
“If it’s really, really bad weather, for now, don’t plan on having us operating,” Blanks said. “But we expect a future where we will be able to operate in all those conditions.”
Delivery via drone will be free at the start of the service, according to Kendal Prosack, local policy and community affairs manager. Prosack said drones will require a picnic-sized blanket space of about 6-by-6 feet to offload up-to 3-pound, recyclable packages naturally by gravity.
Wing has developed seven iterations of its final delivery drone design, Demmitt said. Since starting up in 2012 and refining its technology, the team said they have used their drones to help Girl Scouts boost cookie sales, rent out library books amid a pandemic and help elderly individuals obtain everyday items.
“This is really us growing up, if you will,” Prosack said. “We started to crawl, now walk and hopefully we’re going to run soon.”
The city of Frisco will host Wing again in a Coffee with the Mayor event from 8-9 a.m. on Nov. 12 at the municipal center.
Prosack encouraged residents to email Wing with future vendor and service requests. Visit https://wing.com/dfw for more information, and emails can be sent to the team at [email protected].