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

Today’s Top Stories

All News

supreme court pictured, its new term has started and will hear new cases...
Aimee Cobabe

U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Utah case involving bump stocks

A Utah court case involving bump stocks will not be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court declined to say why it won't take up the case.
19 hours ago
The Book of Mormon Art Catalog offers users a variety of ways to conduct specific searches and to b...
Devin Oldroyd

Book of Mormon digital visual art catalog launches Monday

A digital catalog of visual art inspired by the Book of Mormon became available on Oct. 3. It features more than 2,000 pieces.
19 hours ago
Mosquitos at a Utah lab are pictured....
Britt Johnson

Uptick in mosquitos in Utah caused by recent weather and temperatures

Mosquitos in Utah have seen a growth in population thanks to recent weather. While aggressive, they are not the disease-carrying breed.
19 hours ago
Arctic Monkeys pictured performing....
Waverly Golden

Arctic Monkeys coming to Salt Lake City in 2023

The Arctic Monkeys, the English rock band, announced their 2023 tour dates and Salt Lake City made the list. 
19 hours ago
Salt Lake County DA Sim Gill...
Simone Seikaly

Salt Lake County DA will not file charges in officer-involved incident

Salt Lake County DA Sim Gill says an incident on March 17, 2022, doesn't fall into the category of an officer-involved critical incident.
19 hours ago
University of utah sign pictured, an assault off campus at a frat house is being investigated...
Becky Bruce

SLCPD investigating reported sexual assault at frat house near University of Utah

An alert went out to University of Utah faculty, staff and students saying the sexual assault happened at the Pi Kappa Alpha frat house.
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Girl Scout cookies take flight in Virginia drone deliveries