Drones will soon be able to deliver packages in the US.

Pizzas and birthday presents are still not sent by plane all the time.

FRISCO (AFP) – The small plane appeared out of the blue sky above a house in Texas, dropped off a mid-morning snack in the yard, and flew away. This is the first delivery by drone in the United States.

Flying deliveries of pizzas and birthday gifts haven’t become as common as tech leaders thought they would, but the service is available in some parts of the U.S., and the government is starting to catch up with regulations.

Skeptics aren’t sure if drone deliveries can ever be used on a large scale, but supporters say they are safer, better for the environment, and faster than big, gas-guzzling delivery trucks.

Tiffany Bokhari’s package was dropped to the ground from an electric drone that was hovering over her Frisco, Texas, home after she placed an order on a smartphone app.

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“You can see condensation on the soda because it’s still cold,” she told AFP after the Wing drone, which is owned by Alphabet, had flown away.

Service was new to the area and was still small, but Wing pointed out that in one part of the Brisbane metro area in Australia, it makes up to 1,000 deliveries per day.

Bloody toothbrushes

A few companies already have operations running or will have them running by the end of the year in parts of Texas, North Carolina, and California. These companies include the Israeli startup Flytrex, the e-commerce giant Amazon, and the startup Wing.

In fact, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, showed off a delivery drone in a CBS interview in 2013. He said that within five years, packages would regularly fly from fulfilment centres to customers’ homes.

Things haven’t quite worked out that way for the company, which is everywhere else in modern life, from streaming to shopping for food to health care.

When an Amazon delivery drone crashed during a test last year and started a brush fire, it was another setback for the company’s faltering drone plans.

Others have made more steady progress, and in April, Wing announced what it calls “the first commercial drone delivery service” in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, which is a major city in the United States.

Wing can deliver to some places in Australia and Finland, but only between 2.5 and 3 pounds (just over one kilo).

Jonathan Bass, who is in charge of marketing and communications for Wing, said, “A whole roasted chicken is a good way to picture how big it is.”

Drop-offs by air have worked for small, light items like takeout food, prescriptions, and household items like toothbrushes. However, in parts of Africa, drones have been delivering important things like medicine for years.

Dropping off perishable things like blood by drone makes sense in places where there isn’t much infrastructure and air travel is the best option. However, some experts aren’t sure if it works everywhere.

Government rules

For example, a drone can only take one delivery from a warehouse or store to one place. This is much less efficient than an old-fashioned parcel delivery driver.

“It would take a small army of drones to deliver the 150-200 packages that a single truck takes on a route,” wrote Thomas Black in a Bloomberg Opinion column. However, he thought that “premium” emergency deliveries could still be useful.

But Flytrex CEO Yariv Bash said that electric drones were safer and more efficient than fossil fuel-powered cars for delivering takeout food.

“Drones don’t get tired. They never try to text and drive. “They don’t drive after drinking,” the AFP was told. “You just get much better service.”

Getting permission from the government to work in the United States has often taken a long time because of questions about safety.

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Bass from Wing said that even though they use a 10-pound foam drone, the company had to get the same certification that companies like DHL and UPS need for their delivery planes.

But he said that the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates transportation, has set up a committee that has made suggestions for how drones should be regulated in the United States. “I think that would really unlock faster growth in the country,” he said.

Figures from McKinsey & Company show that the number of commercial deliveries around the world jumped from about 6,000 in 2018 to almost 500,000 last year. So growth in the United States wouldn’t be a surprise.

In its March report, the company said, “But the way forward is not yet clear.” “Regulations, customer acceptance, and cost will determine whether or not the industry reaches its full potential.”

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