Google wants to use drones to deliver packages by 2017

Heads up.
Heads up.
Image: Reuters/Adrees Latif
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American airspace may soon be abuzz with drones from well-known internet brands.

Today (Nov. 2), Google’s head of Project Wing—the company’s drone delivery research division—told a crowd at an air traffic control conference outside Washington that the company plans to have drones that can deliver packages in the air in the next few years.

“Our goal is to have commercial business up and running in 2017,” Vos told the audience, according to Reuters. Google already has a same-day, ground-based delivery service, called Google Express. Its drones could speed up how quickly it delivers those goods.

Google, now a division of Alphabet, is not alone in its desire to deliver packages by drone. Amazon and Walmart have announced plans for drone-delivery services in the US, with Amazon claiming it will have its drones in the air as soon as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sorts out its regulations on commercial drones. The FAA recently administered the first test of a drone delivery on US soil, but is still proceeding slowly with implementing regulations.

Google confirmed to Quartz that Vos’ comments were the intention of the company, but didn’t respond to a query on whether it was applying for a Section 333 exemption. Although the FAA has yet to codify its regulations about drone use, all companies in the US that want to use drones for some sort of commercial purpose—whether that’s taking photos for a realtor or testing out a grocery-delivery service—must apply for an exemption through the FAA. Currently, Google (or Alphabet) does not have one of these exemptions.

That being said, hopefully by 2017 the FAA will have its rules in place—it was supposed to have had them set in September—and Google’s exemption status will be a moot point. Either way, there may come a point soon when US citizens look toward the sky and are able to pick out the branding on drones as they can airplanes.