Drones

Alphabet’s new Wing drone opps center in Coppell means more D-FW deliveries in 2023

COPPELL — Wing, a drone delivery company owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has opened a remote operations center in Coppell that will allow it to expand its delivery capabilities in North Texas and beyond.

Wing has been operating in Frisco and Little Elm since April, making deliveries to homes within 4 miles of The Star along the Dallas North Tollway and a Walgreens on Eldorado Parkway.

The new facility is also monitoring Wing’s drone nests in Christiansburg, Va., and has the capacity to monitor more locations.

Wing isn’t ready to disclose where it will expand in North Texas, but it expects to make announcements next year, said Jacob Demmitt, Wing’s U.S. marketing manager.

The center is on the 10th floor of an office building in Cypress Waters along LBJ Freeway in Coppell. There’s one other remote facility at its headquarters in Palo Alto, but the Central time zone works out better for both Wing’s future plans and operations on the East Coast, Demmitt said. “And with the airports here, there’s a lot of pilot experience in the area.”

The facility’s staff monitoring the drones have remote pilot licenses from the FAA and receive training from Wing. Most of them have worked in aviation, he said. Thomas Hillier, the facility’s flights operations lead, has worked in charter aviation and in the Army National Guard’s drone operations.

The pilots monitor the flights, weather and any mechanical difficulties, but don’t control the drones. “There’s no joystick,” Demmitt said. There are multiple computer screens and displays of live remote feeds from the drone nests.

Thomas Hillier, drone pilot and flights operations lead, explains the responsibilities of...
Thomas Hillier, drone pilot and flights operations lead, explains the responsibilities of Wing’s new remote operations center on the top floor of an office building in the Cypress Waters development in Coppell.(Kevin Brown)

Besides looking out for mechanical difficulties, making sure deliveries are completed and that drones return to their nest, pilots can pause all traffic if there’s bad weather and tell the system when to resume.

When a customer places an order, Wing’s system automatically plans the route and tells the ground personnel which drone to load. The drones are sitting on charging pads ready to go. Blue Bell ice cream is a popular delivery from The Star, which has a limited menu of items. Drones at Walgreens can deliver whatever will fit. A Wing drone can carry up to 3 pounds and travel 65 miles per hour 150 feet above ground. It has a 3-foot wing span, is 4 feet long and weighs 10.6 pounds.

Asked if the delivery service will ever come into Dallas from the suburbs, even near Love Field, Hillier said, “There’s nothing that keeps us from being a certain distance from an airport.”

Drones fly lower than commercial air traffic and can be programmed to avoid flight paths, the mountains in Virginia and construction cranes and clusters of tall buildings around Dallas-Fort Worth, he said.

Still, Hillier said, any expansion requires local government and FAA approvals.

Twitter: @MariaHalkias

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Maria Halkias

Source: https://www.dallasnews.com/business/retail/2022/12/09/alphabets-wing-drone-remote-operations-center-opens-in-coppell/

Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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