Last week, in Blacksburg, Virginia, two-year old, Jack Smith—made history. Only six minutes after a technician from Alphabet Inc.’s Wing clicked the “Confirm Order” button on a smartphone app, a drone operated by the company flew from a simulated store about a mile away, hovered over Jack’s lawn and lowered the popsicle he had ordered (with the help of his mom). The Smith family was part of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved test that allowed flights over congested areas where people live and flew beyond the visual line of sight of the operator. It was the first and most realistic public demonstration in the U.S. that consumers may someday soon get near-instant purchases sent to their homes by drones.
This demonstration was conducted under the FAA’s Drone Integration Pilot Program, which began last May. Of course, widespread deliveries by drones are likely still years away due to a range of issues and concerns about the low-level air traffic control system in our national airspace.