Australian supermarket launches fleet of delivery drones

Sydney, March 2 Major Australian supermarket, Coles, announced on Wednesday the launch of the nation’s first grocery drone delivery service.

The project is a collaboration between Wing, a drone delivery company owned by Google, and the national supermarket chain. It would begin a test run of the service in Australia’s capital city, Canberra, offering delivery of more than 250 everyday food items via drones, Xinhua news agency reported.

“By partnering with Wing, we’re able to offer our online customers another convenient option to purchase the Coles items they know and love, and get them delivered straight to their door,” said Coles Chief Executive of eCommerce Ben Hassing.

General Manager of Wing Australia Simon Rossi said their drones, which could deliver small items in 10 minutes or less, have already made more than 30,000 deliveries this year compared with 100,000 over the entirety of 2021.

Deputy Director of Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney Business School Rico Merkert told Xinhua that this initial rollout would test the waters of everyday drone use in Australia.

“At the end of the day it really depends on the consumers…you need to have an addressable market out there,” said Merkert.

“And that’s what they (Coles) are trying to do at the moment, to figure out if there is a sufficient number of people who would like to have certain items delivered by aerial drones.”

In his work with commercial drone usage, Merkert said some of the biggest public concerns are the clogging of low-altitude airspace and noise pollution.

He said that as the technology advances the amount of noise created would likely be reduced, but if public opinion turns against the use of drones, they are likely to remain grounded for most purposes in Australia.

He added that regulatory bodies, Air Services Australia and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), would be closely monitoring this initial rollout, and would be ready to implement new regulations and policy around drone use for deliveries.

“In order to guarantee safe and orderly operation of all of this, you will have some airspace management system in place.”

Merkert pointed out perhaps the most promising and suitable use case for drone deliveries was medical supplies, citing the fact that they are light and keeping costs low is less of an issue for life-saving medical goods.

Already, Wing has been involved in the rapid delivery of Covid rapid tests and first aid kits across Australia.

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