Google’s parent company Alphabet has ambitions to open an online marketplace where customers could place orders on food, coffee, and other goods to be delivered by drone, according to The Wall Street Journal. Alphabet’s X division, the “moonshot factory” where the company’s most outrageous ideas are sent to sink or swim, has apparently met with businesses like Whole Foods, Domino’s, and Starbucks about the service. “Wing Marketplace,” as it’s reportedly being called, would give these companies a way to make deliveries to people’s homes in just a few minutes, with customers paying a $6 “drone delivery fee” on top of the cost of each order.
A major problem stands in the way of setting up this marketplace, though: the drones themselves. Employees have fought over whether it should be more like a quadcopter, or wing-shaped, or both. The current iteration apparently “resembles a catamaran,” according to the WSJ, “with a 5-foot wing laid across two thin poles that each support two rotors and a fin.” But this new design is fraught with problems — former X employees told the WSJ that it has “repeatedly crashed, wandered off, lost power, or tried to land in trees.”
Bloomberg reported in November that Alphabet had already performed tests with Starbucks before the coffee chain pulled out of negotiations, something this new report from The Wall Street Journal helps corroborate. Alphabet targeted 2017 for its first commercial drone deliveries earlier this year, just a few months after receiving the go-ahead from the FAA to begin testing in the United States. It started those tests by partnering with Chipotle to deliver burritos to students at Virginia Tech.