MIT roboticist Nick Roy recently returned to the Institute after a two-year sabbatical leading Project Wing, Google’s secret drone-delivery program, the existence of which was officially disclosed on August 28. On that date, The Atlantic published an in-depth look at the project.
The initiative, born in the Google X lab, aims to provide safe, near-instantaneous delivery of goods while reducing the carbon footprint of delivery systems. Additionally, Google imagines its drones could bring products to parts of the world that are typically inaccessible—in fact, the original focus of the project was on delivering defibrillators to people who had suffered heart attacks.
Roy joined the project team to help Google determine if such a delivery system was feasible—and if so, was it an idea worth pursuing? Although he had little knowledge about outdoor drones, he had previously developed an autonomous helicopter that could navigate indoors with the use of GPS.
Although the project is still in the early stages of development with many obstacles yet to overcome, Roy is optimistic. Before parting ways with the Google X team, he had the opportunity to finally see one of his drones deliver a package—an experience he described as “delightful.”
Read Alexis Madrigal’s comprehensive coverage of Project Wing at The Atlantic.