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Google’s drone startup Wing launches world first shopping centre drone delivery service in Queensland

Drone delivery company Wing has recently partnered with Australian retail property group, Vicinity Centres to test run a world-first drone delivery service. In the pilot, goods were collected from shopping centres and delivered directly to homes and businesses across southeast Queensland. 

Over the past month, Wing has delivered 2,500 packages in their “rooftop model” pilot program.

Rooftops as collection zones

The under-utilised rooftop space of the Grand Plaza shopping centre in Queensland’s southeast, served as a drone pick up point in the pilot. After collecting goods for the rooftop, drones fly directly to customers’ homes. The rooftop pilot program has delivered everything from pharmaceutical products to smoothies to Logan residents. 

 Jesse Suskin, Wing’s Head of Policy & Community Affairs, Australia, said, “We’re delighted to explore this new model of delivery with Vicinity Centres. For the first time, we are co-locating our drones with businesses at their premises, rather than local businesses having to co-locate their goods with us at our delivery facility.”

“With the increase in consumers’ desire for convenience and speed, on-demand drone delivery can help address the costly last-mile delivery challenge, reduce road congestion and emissions, and create new economic opportunities for businesses by utilising their existing retail space as logistics hubs and fulfilment centres.”

According to Wing, utilising the rooftop space that every building has will enable them to expand their service without excessive additional infrastructure. 

Partnership with Vicinity Centres 

Vicinity Centres is one of Australia’s largest retail property groups managing 61 shopping centres across the country. Wing partnered with Vicinity to run its pilot program in Logan. Now it is looking forward to expanding the service to other Vicinity Centre shopping complexes.  

By partnering with Vicinity, Wing will have access to rooftop locations across the country.  

Ms Suskin said, “We look forward to continuing to work with the team at Vicinity Centres to further develop new delivery models that can complement the retail businesses located at Grand Plaza, and if successful, potentially roll out similar models in other locations across Vicinity Centres’ retail property portfolio.”

Mr Mills said, “Almost two-thirds of Australia’s population lives within 30 minutes of one of our 61 strategically located centres. This national footprint provides a strong foundation to implement our distribution and fulfilment strategy by rapidly scaling our drone delivery partnership with Wing and further developing our co-located logistics hubs and micro fulfilment centres.” 

“Our partnership with Wing is a natural extension of our distribution and fulfilment strategy, which will help retailers use physical stores and our shopping centre network to get their products in customer’s hands quicker and more efficiently.” 

“The Wing drone delivery pilot helped retailers unlock the value of their physical store to optimise omnichannel retail.

Benefits of drone delivery 

Wing states that expansion of drone delivery is good for consumers, businesses, the economy and the environment. A report by AlphaBeta, an economic advisory consultancy, found drone delivery in Australia would reduce delivery costs, increase sales and reduce emissions, amongst other outcomes. 

The report states, “Last-mile delivery from the store to the home is one of the most costly segments of the retail supply chain. Last-mile delivery can account for 15-20% of the total cost of an item, in the form of either delivery fees or the time of consumers picking up their goods.

“Queensland is at the forefront of global drone technology, with its introduction of an ambitious whole-of-government drone strategy last year. Flying at speeds of up to 120 kilometres per hour above the traffic, drones can quickly and cost-effectively deliver small packages of food, medicine and other household items, saving businesses and consumers time and money while also helping to reduce congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and accidents on the road.”

Vicinity’s Chief Innovation and Information Officer, Justin Mills, said, “The retail industry is changing, and Vicinity is employing a test and learn approach in areas critical to the role of Australian shopping centres in the future. We believe the partnership with Wing will be an important component of our overall distribution and fulfilment strategy and support our new growth strategy..

“Exploring new technologies like drone delivery means our retailers may provide customers with game-changing product deliveries in minutes rather than days, while also reducing their carbon footprint.” 

Should the service expand, southeast Queensland residents will be left saying, “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a drone.”

Read more: Meet the Australian founder using drones to plant thousands of trees a day

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