Following a White House workshop to promote unmanned flight safety, the government on Tuesday announced a commitement to the "safe integration" of drones, throwing support to Google's Project Wing drone delivery, which will be tested at a site in the U.S. sanctioned by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The National Science Foundation will also invest $35 million in unmanned flight research over the next five years, while the U.S. Department of Interior also expects to expand its use of drones.
The White House announcement comes after the Federal Aviation Administration in June announced initial U.S. drone regulations, and less than a week after Amazon said it would test its own drone service in the U.K..
Neither Google nor its parent company Alphabet, under which Project Wing is parked, commented on the test the White House alluded to, which could be a missed opportunity. But the announcement isn't entirely out of the blue—Alphabet has been working with the FAA for a while, specifically on ways to ensure drone safety. Tests for Project Wing will start with external cargo loads, GeekWire reports, and with additional FAA approval, it will work toward beyond-line-of-sight flights at North Dakota’s Grand Sky business and aviation park.
Amazon's decision last month to test its drones in the U.K. also didn't comes as much of a surprise, considering Amazon had complained about how slowly the federal government had been moving to support drone tests. Alphabet, the White House and various federal government agencies all may have felt an urgency to announce something that would counter-balance Amazon's U.K. news.
Did Alphabet and Google just get a leg up on Amazon and the rest of the drone delivery market in the U.S. by getting fast-tracked to an FAA-approved test? It's too early to tell, as no date or duration for the test has been announced, and the company behind the technology has offered no details. What's ultimately most positive about this announcement is that it shows the current presidential administration and the federal government, after much delay, is helping the drone movement take flight.