Delivery drones cheering shoppers, annoy neighbors, dogs scare

A drone is equipped with a thermal camera, is shown in this file photo.
(Associated Press)

CANBERRA, Australia—Robyn McIntyre, who lives on the outskirts of the australian capital, was in her family room a few months ago, when she thought she heard a “chain saw gone ballistic.”

It was actually a drone on his way to deliver a burrito or coffee as part of a test of the Wing, which like Google is a subsidiary of Alphabet, Inc. A recent day, she said: delivery drones flew over her house about 10 times in 2½ hours, making it difficult to concentrate on work or read the newspaper.

“There’s one!” said Mrs. McIntyre, 64 years old, drinking tea in her living room on a recent Saturday morning. “Oh no, it’s a blowfly. See there, it has become in my head. Every time I hear a high-pitched sound, I think it’s a drone.”

Drones may one day revolutionize e-commerce by cutting lead times, reducing energy consumption and lowering costs. For now, they are to divide neighbors in the suburb of Bonython, where one of the world’s most advanced drone-delivery tests has taken flight.


Tech companies are tinkering with drone deliveries around the world. Wing is a step forward of a number of by systematically to bring every day items to customers in a whole district. Residents can use a smartphone app to order food, hardware supplies and over-the-counter medication from a half dozen retailers. Next year, Wing hopes to move the process to a different part of Canberra and plans to begin a similar test in Finland.

Some residents do not use their meters as much because of the noise. Others say they have seen magpies, famous for swooping down on pedestrians and cyclists in the spring, do the same with drones. At a local dog club, some members are avoiding an area near where the drones take off because the dogs are nervous, says the president of the club. For some residents it is a small-scale version of the misery heaped on travellers on the London Gatwick airport, whose holiday plans were ruined by mystery drone attacks.

Irene Clarke, who Mrs. McIntyre’s neighbor, gets up to 10 deliveries per day. After she discovers that her sunscreen was out of date, they ordered a replacement via drone, so they could quickly foam on her three young grandchildren. It came within seven minutes.

Mrs. Clarke, 64, calculates the 25 minutes to the kids in the car and make the trek to the mall. Some people may not like the drone-service “because they don’t use it,” said Mrs. Clarke, adding that none of her neighbors have asked her to stop with the retrieval of the supplies.

The convenience of not swaying members of Bonython Against Drones, a group of citizens “united against loud, intrusive, unnecessary drones,” according to its Facebook page. The organizers recently submitted a petition to the local legislative assembly. Politicians voted for the launch of an investigation into the drone deliveries, and a committee will prepare a report on the process of the environmental and economic effects.


“It is a suburb surrounded by bush,” said Nev Sheather, 68, who opposes the trial. “It is normally a very peaceful, quiet place. We have kangaroos hopping literally in the street.”

Laura Edwards, 32, has not used the drone service, but she is back home after a weekend away to find two of hot chocolate in front of her house, still in the aerodynamically designed box Wing used for the delivery. They had usually leaked, that her husband the hose in the driveway.

“I felt angry, because I thought, ‘Really? We have to clean this up,’ ” said Mrs. Edwards, who informed about the incident on social media, but not a formal complaint. An investigation by the Wing later the hot chocolate was left at the wrong house because a customer selected the wrong address.

Click here to read more from The Wall Street Journal, where this article was originally published.

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