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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 April 2019

Amazon's first drone delivery in Australia after 'blimp' video goes viral

Firm's drone delivery arm Wing said Australian service available to limited homes, days after spoof video released

An Amazon Prime Air drone. The company has made its debut drone delivery in Australia. AP
An Amazon Prime Air drone. The company has made its debut drone delivery in Australia. AP

Google parent Alphabet's drone service made its first air delivery in North Canberra, Australia, on Tuesday after getting approval from the country's civil aviation authority.

Wing, the company's drone delivery arm, said the delivery service will be available to a limited set of eligible homes in the suburbs of Crace, Palmerston and Franklin and would gradually expand to customers in Harrison and Gungahlin.

"Wing has been testing drone delivery in Australia since 2014. Over the past 18 months, Wing has delivered food, small household items and over the counter chemist products more than 3,000 times to Australian homes in Fernleigh Park, Royalla and Bonython communities," it said in a blog post.

FILE - This Dec. 7, 2016 file photo provided by Amazon shows an Amazon Prime Air drone in Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom. On Friday, April 5, 2019, The Associated Press has found that a video posted on Twitter which appears to show an Amazon blimp releasing drones for deliveries was computer generated. The Associated Press reported in December that Amazon said it was moving ahead with plans to use drones for quick deliveries. (Amazon via AP, File)
An Amazon Prime Air drone. Amazon

Wing was spun out of Alphabet's X research division in July last year to become an independent company within Alphabet and is part of the Other Bets division. It is headed by James Ryan Burgess, according to Reuters.

Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (Casa) said on Tuesday Wing's "operation meets an acceptable level of safety" and it works within the guidelines for commercial drone operators flying over 2kg.

Wing had said in December it would launch its first European delivery service in Finland in the spring of 2019.

Amazon's debut Australian delivery comes days after a video claiming to show the company operating a giant blimp to deploy drones went viral on social media. While it was soon clear the footage was fake - created by a Twitter user - Amazon did file a patent for just such an airship, which it descibed as "airborne fulfillment centres" (AFCs), in 2014, which was discovered in 2016 by Zoe Leavitt, an analyst at technology data and research firm CB Insights.

The AFCs would hover at about 13,700 metres and be restocked and resupplied by "shuttles or smaller airships". Amazon did not make comment on the report.

Updated: April 10, 2019 05:10 AM

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