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Wing wants to add public drone delivery zone in Virginia

Alphabet-backed drone company said location in Christiansburg will expand drone delivery to people outside immediate delivery zone

An expansion of drone delivery service in Christiansburg, Virginia, that was expected to be on the table Tuesday night when the City Council holds its regular monthly meeting has been rescheduled.

Wing, which has been providing drone delivery to residents in the area since 2019, has proposed the creation of a public delivery zone at the Christiansburg Recreation Center. The proposal was introduced at the council’s May 24 meeting.

The original agenda for the Tuesday meeting included a public hearing on the proposal, but a change has pushed the hearing to June 28.

Alphabet-backed Wing has proposed adding a public delivery zone, similar to ones it operates in Finland and Australia, to open up drone delivery to more people. Customers who order from within Wing’s current customer base will be able to pick up their deliveries at the delivery one, regardless of where they live within the city.

“This public delivery zone is an intermediate step so we can bring the services to more people while we work toward [broader expansion],” Nick Devereux, Wing’s policy and governmental affairs manager, said during the May 24 meeting.

The company’s presentation said this will allow it to expand drone delivery to more area residents without the need to go through a Federal Aviation Administration approval process for a larger delivery area.

Currently, Wing is limited to drone deliveries where an observer can monitor the airspace the drone is operating inside of. But, to open up the customer base as it adds more businesses to its Christiansburg operations, Wing is proposing the public delivery zone as a pickup location.

Local business partners currently include Walgreens, Brugh Coffee Co., Gigi’s Cupcakes, Big Indian Farm artisan bakery and Gran Rodeo Mexican restaurant. Drones in the area operate between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., although those hours will shift on June 28 to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. as Wing adds breakfast options to its menu.

Demand in the Christiansburg area has been good, Devereaux said.

“We still enjoy really high public support and community support,” he told the council, adding that demand for the service increased between five- and sixfold during the pandemic compared to pre-pandemic.

“There is a lot more demand for the inherently contactless nature of drone delivery,” Devereaux said.

Wing said it received FAA approval last fall for a new aircraft that expanded its service opportunity by opening up flight operations within more varied weather conditions including light rain, lower temperatures and “marginally higher wind conditions.” The company also received approval to fly more drones simultaneously.

In April, Wing added drone delivery through a partnership with national retailer Walgreens in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and fleetowner.com. Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at bstraight@freightwaves.com.