Google wants drones to deliver your packages by 2017

Special delivery! A Google drone might arrive at your door in 2017.David Vos, the leader of Google’s Project Wing, announced today that Google plans to have its drone delivery service operational in 2017, Reuters reports. Vos made the announcement at an air traffic convention in Washington.

Project Wing — which falls under the blanket of Google’s home for experimental projects, Google X — was officially announced August 2014, though it had been brewing in secret for two years prior to that. Many companies other than Google also believe drone delivery is the way of the future, most notably Amazon, though Walmart is reportedly considering joining the fray.

Vos is part of the recently announced task force aiming to advise the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Transportation (DoT) on how to create a registration system for drones. The FAA and DoT want all drones over a certain size to be registered with the U.S. government, an important step toward clearing the regulatory hurdles in the way of commercial drones.

“We’re pretty much on a campaign here, working with the FAA, working with the small UAV community and the aviation community at large, to move things along,” Vos said to the crowd at the convention, in regards to the task force. “We think we can accomplish a lot in the next three, six, 12 months. And we’re hoping to get some strong support to make this happen.”

The drone registry should be in place before Christmas this year, and Vos said he believes a system for identifying drone operators and keeping drones away from larger aircraft will be set up within a year. If those two elements fall into place,Google’s target of 2017 doesn’t seem like it’s out of the realm of possibility, even if it’s ambitious.It’s a question of “if,” though. Preventing drones from hitting other aircraft would likely require “geofencing,” which as the name suggests, establishes a virtual, automated fence around other aircraft and no-fly zones like airports. This would require a considerable amount of work beyond establishing a registration system because it would need all drones (or at least all drones capable of flying at a certain minimum height) to be connected to the internet.Vos said that Google wants the FAA to allow drones to fly high enough to be able to operate above areas of heavy population, but not so high they’d encounter any other aircraft, save for low-flying helicopters.Of course, Google would also have to perfect its product while attempting to clear the regulatory hurdles, so 2017 is clearly an ambitious target.