It's been a couple years since we looked in on Wing, the pioneering drone delivery company. In that time the company has made great strides; they're now building out their Wing Delivery Network, a logistics platform that will allow their army of drones to deliver packages across wide areas. In addition to the software, the platform requires three things to work:
1) A drone design that works (check)
2) Parking-lot-like "Pads" where drones can land to recharge their batteries mid-flight, then take off (in progress)
3) "AutoLoaders" where retail partners (fast food chains, stores, pharmacies, etc.) can easily load individual packages for pickup, ideally without needing to build out infrastructure.
The last one is the most interesting to us, as a design problem: How do you retrofit a drone package pickup station within an existing retail space at minimal cost? Wing's first attempt, which we think is pretty clever if not yet refined, consists of these Y-shaped contraptions:
The idea is that these freestanding AutoLoaders are placed in parking spots that are already designated for curbside pickup. Aside from the stands themselves, the only additional cost is to paint a QR code on the parking space that the drone can read from above.
And while the stands do take up the inner portion of the spaces, in the photos below you'll see a compact car can still be parked within the space (at least technically; given the way we Americans drive, I'm sure a few of these AutoLoaders will be sacrificed by people whose parking confidence outweighs their actual skill).
When a drone delivery order comes in, an employee hangs the package from two prongs at the confluence of the Y.
When the pickup drone arrives, it drops a line down into the Y to snag the package. Here's what it looks like in motion:
If you're interested in a more detailed explanation of how Wing envisions their network operating, company CEO Adam Woodworth breaks it down in this 5-minute vid:
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