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Alphabet’s Wing spinoff is about to launch drone deliveries in Finland

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Alphabet’s Wing spinoff is set to launch a drone delivery service in Helsinki, Finland’s capital, in spring next year, the company has announced. It will be its first operation in Europe.

The news: It will just be a small-scale trial, with the drones only able to carry packages weighing up to 3.3 pounds (1.5 kilograms) on a round trip of up to 20 miles. Wing is pitching the drones as an environmentally friendly choice, claiming they have a carbon footprint less than a 20th that of traditional deliveries. Wing graduated from Google’s X division in July to become a separate company, after six years of development.

Drone delivery: Wing is asking Finnish would-be users what they would like to have delivered, with options including medicine, groceries, and lunch. It obviously sees Finland's interesting weather as a good testing ground, too. “If our drones can deliver here, they can deliver anywhere,” Wing says. It has spent the last 18 months trialing drone deliveries in southeastern Australia, which poses fewer challenges in that department. 

Missed deadlines: Drone deliveries have proved a lot more challenging than techies had originally thought. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos promised drone deliveries within five years in December 2013, a deadline the company won’t meet.

However … Drones have taken off (sorry) in some other sectors. The UK’s national grid uses drones to inspect overhead lines, while Minnesota’s transport department is set to deploy them to examine bridges. The tech is also increasingly being used in construction, by emergency services, and for filming and photography.