A food delivery drone operated by Wing, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, crashed into power lines in Brisbane, Australia, on Thursday, Sep. 29. Electricity company Energex had to shut down its network as the drone caught fire.
The incident happened after the drone made a “precautionary controlled landing” on the overhead power lines. Wing had to report it to Energex immediately. During the retrieval operation, a wide power outage occurred.
Around 2,000 residents of Browns Plains suburb were affected by the electricity outage, which lasted for 45 minutes, while 300 more customers in the immediate vicinity experienced no power for three hours.
“[The drone] landed on top of 11,000 volts, and whilst it didn’t take out power, there was voltage tracking across the drone, and the drone caught fire and fell to the ground,” said Energex spokesman Danny Donald, reported by The Age. He said this was the first time that it had happened.
There was no permanent damage to the network, as the Energex team responded quickly.
Donald described this event as a first. It is not a regular occurrence, which could be a good thing.
Nevertheless, he made a statement that everyone, including companies, must be careful not to let any object crash onto the power lines. These could be children’s kites, drones, or even street and traffic lights. He called it a “common sense” that must prevail.
A spokesperson from Wing expressed the company’s sorry to all affected households and individuals, saying its team is also conducting a review of what happened.
Wing’s Delivery Service in Australia
Wing’s drone delivery service is currently available in three countries, such as the US, Finland, and Australia.
The company has found success in most suburban parts of Australia since it was launched in 2019. Customers’ food, beverages, and other small products are being delivered by drones, operating as fixed-wing aircraft and hovering copters. The travel time is usually short, lasting less than 10 minutes.
August 2021, Wing marked a milestone for hitting a total of 100,000 successful deliveries.
Half a year since then, the firm made 200,000 more commercial deliveries after it announced its partnership with the country’s leading supermarket chains. That was about 1,000 orders in a day, or one delivery per 25 seconds or so. The wing was able to deliver healthcare products and toiletry supplies on top of food and beverage items.
How Does the Drone Delivery Work?
Wing’s success can be seen in the specifics of its technology.
Its aircraft device doesn’t need to land to drop off the goods. The drone flies to its target location, descends to a height of seven meters, and then lowers the packages that are suspended using a tether. It is programmed to release the items onto the ground automatically.