Drones begin delivering online shopping in the US

19 October 2019, 07:37 | Updated: 19 October 2019, 10:45

Drones have begun delivering online shopping in the US - with cold medication among the most popular items.

Wing Aviation, which received federal approval earlier this year, is operating a trial in Christiansburg, Virginia.

The company, owned by Google parent Alphabet, has beaten Amazon's Prime Air in the race to start using the technology.

Wing is offering items from pharmacy chain Walgreens, FedEx and local gift shop Sugar Magnolia.

One of the first customers, Susie Sensmeier, 81, said she had doubted such technology would "come in my lifetime".

"I'm thrilled," she said after a drone delivering a purple winter vest from Dicks Sporting Goods landed in her front garden.

The first customers ordering from Walgreens requested cough and cold medicine.

It follows another Wing pilot scheme in Australia, where many orders have been for food and cold medicine - items people need when they do not want to leave the house.

Coffee is also popular, because delivery often takes under four minutes, meaning the drink is still hot on arrival.

In Christiansburg, the drones are flying within a radius of about four miles (6.4km). The tiny aircraft are capable of making a 12-mile (19.3km) round trip, and Wing expects delivery distances to increase.

The company says the use of drones leads to fewer vehicles on the roads, helping the environment and reducing congestion.

"We're looking at trends in cities including congestion and environmental sustainability," Wing CEO James Ryan Burgess said.

"We see drone deliveries as a key part of solutions to these."

Regarding privacy, Mr Burgess said that while there are cameras on board each drone, they are used for navigation, and images are not streamed back to Wing's main servers.

Drones are also being tested in the Finnish capital, Helsinki.