ALL NEWS

Girl Scout cookies take flight in Virginia drone deliveries

Apr 29, 2021, 7:29 AM

In this April 14, 2021 image provided by Wing LLC., Girl Scouts Alice, right, and Gracie pose with ...

In this April 14, 2021 image provided by Wing LLC., Girl Scouts Alice, right, and Gracie pose with a Wing delivery drone in Christiansburg, Va. The company is testing drone delivery of Girl Scout cookies in the area. (Sam Dean/ Wing LLC via AP)

(Sam Dean/ Wing LLC via AP)

Missing out on Thin Mints in the pandemic? A Google affiliate is using drones to deliver Girl Scout cookies to people’s doorsteps in a Virginia community.

The town of Christiansburg has been a testing ground for commercial delivery drones operated by Wing, a subsidiary of Google’s corporate parent Alphabet.

Now the company is adding the iconic boxed cookies to the more mundane drugstore offerings, FedEx packages and locally-made pastries, tacos and cold brew coffees it’s been hauling to a thinly populated area of residential subdivisions since 2019.

Wing said it began talking to local Girl Scout troops because they’ve been having a harder time selling cookies during the pandemic, when fewer people are out and about. The organization jumped on the new twist to its skills-building mission.

“I’m excited that I get to be a part of history,” said 11-year-old Gracie Walker, of the Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline Troop 224. “People are going to realize and be, like, ‘Hey, this is better for the environment and I can just walk outside in my pajamas and get cookies.'”

It’s the latest attempt to build public enthusiasm for futuristic drone delivery as Wing competes against AmazonWalmartUPS and others to overcome the many technical and regulatory challenges of flying packages over neighborhoods.

Federal officials started rolling out new rules in mid-April that will allow operators to fly small drones over people and at night, potentially giving a boost to commercial use of the machines. Most drones will need to be equipped so they can be identified remotely by law enforcement officials.

The 10-pound Wing drone that made the first deliveries in Christiansburg in fall 2019 is already an artifact held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Whether it will go down in history as a revolutionary innovation or a utopian flop remains to be seen.

Amazon has also been working on drone delivery for years. In 2013, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said in a TV interview that drones would be flying to customer’s homes within five years, but that deadline has long since passed. The company did win government approval to deliver packages by drones last August, but Amazon said it was still testing them and hasn’t started delivering goods to shoppers yet.

David Vos, an aerospace engineer who led Google’s Wing project until 2016, said he has been surprised that drone delivery ventures haven’t taken off more quickly.

“I thought it was completely doable to be up and going by 2021,” Vos said. While he still thinks drone technology is getting closer to delivering the size, weight and power needed to transport goods safely in populated places, Vos said the tech industry also needs a cultural shift.

In particular, he said, it needs to bring on people from the traditional aviation industry who have experience building “safety-critical systems” that meet strict performance standards.

Wing’s drones are able to navigate autonomously — without a human pilot controlling them remotely — and are powered by two forward propellers on their wings and 12 smaller vertical propellers. When a drone reaches its destination, it hovers above the front lawn as a tether releases to drop the package.

“It was so smooth and it didn’t shake,” said Walker, who, before her troop added drones to its sales strategy, would don a mask and set up a cookie booth outside a home improvement store. “They look like a helicopter but also a plane.”

There’s not much evidence that consumers have been clamoring for drone delivery, and many have expressed privacy, safety or nuisance concerns when asked to imagine the noisy machines over their homes. Wing has objected to some of the FAA’s new drone rules on privacy grounds, saying the remote ID requirement could allow observers to snoop on delivery routes online.

But in a small survey of Christiansburg residents by researchers at nearby Virginia Tech that Wing helped fund, most townspeople appeared to be content with the drones.

“One of the reasons is because Virginia Tech is here and there’s an engineering culture of trying new things,” said Lee Vinsel, an assistant professor of science, technology and society who conducted the Virginia Tech survey. “And the suburban setup is easiest for drone delivery.”

That might not be the case for much denser places, he added. “Manhattan would be tough.”

—-

AP Retail Writer Joseph Pisani in New York contributed to this story.

For all of AP’s tech coverage, visit https://apnews.com/apf-technology

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

All News

Fans cheer at the Delta Center as Utah's NHL hockey team is introduced to fans on April 24. Will pe...

Dennis Romboy, Deseret News

Utah has an NHL team. Will people go to the games?

Within an hour of receiving an email about season tickets for Utah's new NHL team, Kyle Boyd had his name on the list to buy some. But will go to the games?

48 minutes ago

The Little Twist wildfire grew to 1,000 acres on Saturday, June 15, 2024, according to a news relea...

Mark Jones, KSLTV.com

Little Twist wildfire, southeast of Beaver, is now 1,000 acres in size

The Little Twist wildfire grew to 1,000 acres on Saturday, it has being fought by hotshots, local engines and air resources.

4 hours ago

A driver on West Valley hit two individuals and fled away....

Esme Sanchez Estevez

A driver hit two individuals and fled away on West Valley

On Thursday night a driver hit two individuals. While trying to get away from the police, she crashed with two cars. The Suspect is under investigation.

4 hours ago

A South Jordan police vehicle is pictured in South Jordan. A person was shot by police, and later d...

Esme Sanchez Estevez

BREAKING: Police kill person who allegedly threatened them with a knife

Police in South Jordan say officers shot someone who wielded a knife and came at them in a neighborhood park.

7 hours ago

The Foundation’s 38-foot RV, customized with two private exam rooms, will travel around the count...

CARLYSLE PRICE, KSL TV

Free skin cancer screening program visits Park City

Local dermatologists will provide free full-body skin cancer screenings in Park City in an RV meant just to check patients.

9 hours ago

The best thing people can do to stay safe around bison is to give them space....

Kennedy Camarena

Caution: Bison ahead

Most people have to travel to Yellowstone to see Bison. Utahns, however, have Antelope Island State Park, where they can find bison.

11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Underwater shot of the fisherman holding the fish...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Your Bear Lake fishing guide

Bear Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. By preparing ahead of time, you might go home with a big catch!

A group of people cut a purple ribbon...

Comcast

Comcast announces major fiber network expansion in Utah

Comcast's commitment to delivering extensive coverage signifies a monumental leap toward a digitally empowered future for Utahns.

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Girl Scout cookies take flight in Virginia drone deliveries