Drones could be used in the United Kingdom to deliver millions of packages within a year.
A subsidiary of Google owner Alphabet, Wing, is testing “at scale” in Australia where the company delivers up to 1,000 packages a day.
The move is bound to raise security fears as drones could be used for criminal purposes. Some have already been used to drop drugs and mobile phones into prisons.
A trial has also started in a Dublin suburb.
According to reports, Wing and other companies are in talks with the UK Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority about a regulatory framework.
Chief executive Adam Woodworth said “we do a lot of grocery delivery, we do a lot of prepared food delivery, we do a lot of coffee delivery”.
At present, consumers are not charged extra for drone deliveries but is rolled out across the country, there will be a cost.
To be financially viable, companies will have to make a huge volume of deliveries each day.
Speaking to the BBC, Dr Steve Wright, of the University of West of England, said: “Everybody is still working on the drones themselves – these things are going to operate night and day, far longer than we’ve done before – but thoughts are already turning to the bigger picture,” he said.
“The first question that is being grappled with right now with is regulation. However, the next question is looming large – how to manage and direct this vast number of robots. I don’t think that it’s any coincidence that Wing and Amazon share one clear heritage – big data.”
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Woodworth added: “A tangible example of that would be: the aircraft takes off at one location, it might fly to another business to go pick up a box, and then it might fly to the delivery location and then, rather than returning to the pad it took off from, fly to another adjacent one.”
Aside from the security implications, there may be complaints from residents upset by the sound of drone buzzing above their homes.
Woodworth said that the technology around drones is developing a quieter craft. There may be scope for creating “drone highways”, he added.
The use of drones is already being tested by the NHS for quickly transferring clinical supplies, such as blood and life-saving drugs.
Uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) carry up to 3kg of medical supplies from Wansbeck General Hospital in Ashington up to Alnwick Infirmary and on to Berwick Infirmary.