CLEVELAND, Ohio, Nov. 11, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Alphabet, the parent company of Google, recently scrapped plans to partner with Starbucks to deliver coffee using drones. Alphabet had previously tested delivery of the coffee chain's products as part of its Project Wing pilot program. The tests used hybrid vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) drones that hover in place and lower their cargo to the ground on a rope.
According to Bloomberg.com, the decision was made as part of a broader effort by the firm to turn what are currently money-losing experimental projects into real businesses. Disagreements with Starbucks over access to desired customer data also played a major role in Alphabet's decision. The full article can be read here: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-08/alphabet-taps-brakes-on-drone-project-nixing-starbucks-partnershipDavid Vos, the former leader of Project Wing, said last year that the company's goal was to have a commercial business up and running in 2017. However, his departure from Alphabet last month and subsequent efforts to trim the program's staff will make this difficult at best. Safety concerns about commercial drone operation and strict government regulations are also likely to keep drone delivery services from being a viable business for a number of years, according to Ken Long, an analyst at the Freedonia Group. Alphabet's recent focus on research and development projects with relatively short term profit potential made it easier for the company to make the decision to cut its spending on drones. Commercial drone operation is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which recently eliminated some of the most burdensome and expensive restrictions placed on their use, including the requirement that the operator have a pilot's license. However, other rules that have had a dampening effect on commercial drone use -- such as the requirement that an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) can only be flown within visual line of sight of the operator -- remain in place, unless the applicant can demonstrate how such flights will be safe and a waiver is granted by the FAA.