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Drone deliveries grounded in Canberra, and started up in northern Gold Coast


Drones are part of the future of delivery tech. This week, Wing Aviation, the drone delivery service backed by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, ceased its Canberra operations. This is mainly due to community pushback. 

Just a few weeks later, it joined forces with supermarket giant Coles for store-to-door deliveries in northern Gold Coast suburbs. It offers services in shopping centers in Logan and Ipswich, with plans for expansion in southeast Queensland.

Wings clipped

Drones buzzed around in Gungahlin for nearly five years, delivering everything from food and coffee to essential pharmacy items. However, the service that once promised hyper-convenience while reducing costs and carbon emissions has grounded its local fleet.

Community resistance played a role in Wing’s decision. Associate professor Julia Powles from the University of Western Australia notes that resistance began as early as 2018, during a trial period in Bonython, Canberra’s south. Residents expressed concerns about becoming involuntary test subjects for a service that operated day and night, prompting a petition to halt the trial. 

Wing’s head of public policy, Jesse Suskin, explains that the company has changed its logistics to streamline operations.  “We’ve moved away from having our own warehouses”. 

In the past, drones took off and landed at a dedicated storage facility in Mitchell. Now, the drones are strategically positioned at major shopping centers. According to Suskin, this change streamlines the process, allowing more merchants and customers to participate without the logistical complexities of managing a warehouse.

Community resistance

“[Bonython residents] came together and said, ‘this is not right. A company is deciding that we should be the guinea pigs of, effectively, a junk food delivery service operating day and night and we can’t do anything about it’,” says Powles.

The petitioners raised valid concerns around a flawed public feedback process, transparency and governance issues, and potential dangers to pets and wildlife. 

Their primary worry, however, centered on compromising their fundamental rights – the right to peace, privacy, and a good quality of life. These fears, grounded in the invasion of their daily lives, prompted a robust civic response.

Taking flight again

Despite the setback in Canberra, Wing’s drones have taken off in other Australian regions. It has joined forces with supermarket giant Coles for drone deliveries in northern Gold Coast suburbs. 

It offers services in shopping centers in Logan and Ipswich, with plans for expansion in southeast Queensland. However, it’s not certain yet how residents will react.

Wing’s departure from Canberra serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between technological innovation and community well-being. While the promise of convenience hangs in the air, residents’ concerns on the ground must not be disregarded.

About the author

Marce has contributed tech to various prominent publications since 2018, offering a transparent perspective into the tech industry and its effects on its users. She now spends her time developing insightful content for industry players. You know, when she's not gaming or geeking out about the latest fad.

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