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Alphabet to launch drone delivery pilot in Europe

Written by Hannah McGrath

Google’s parent group Alphabet is to roll out its delivery drone technology to Europe with trial in Helsinki next spring.

Alphabet’s drone company Wing announced plans to launch a small service trial of its 12-propeller drones - capable of delivering packages of up to 1.5kg for up to 6.2 miles - in the Finnish city at an appearance at the Slush conference in Helsinki.

Wing has already been testing the resistance of its Hummingbird drones to the Finnish winter weather with a trial in Tampere. The Hummingbirds have not been landing with packages, but have been lowering them to the ground using string.

The news that the tech giant is introducing delivery drones into Europe comes after 18 months of testing in Australia, during which Wing has run four trials racking up a total of 55,000 journeys.

It follows a more challenging attempt to launch drone delivery pilots in the US, where the regulatory environment has complicated attempts to run a service capable of countering the dominance of Amazon’s e-commerce delivery model.

Wing is also working on an air traffic management system which will enable drones to pass safely through the skies.

For retailers and commerce firms, drone delivery opens up the possibility of consumers receiving their goods within minutes of submitting an order, with a much lower carbon footprint compared to traditional ground delivery.

Drone delivery could also give smaller businesses the chance to compete with the likes of Amazon, as delivery infrastructure barriers are removed.

Test cases for Wing drones could include delivery of items such as over-the-counter medicines, groceries and household essentials, as well as emergency tools such as ice-scrapers for car windows.

Wing has launched a website aimed at surveying Helsinki residents on what might be the most popular goods for delivery.

The site read: “Finns are internationally renowned for being early-adopters of new technologies, and we’re looking forward to working with the community and local businesses to find the best way to implement our services in the Helsinki area.

“Based on what we know about the winter weather in Finland, we're pretty confident that if our drones can deliver here, they can deliver anywhere.”