Wing drone goes down Down Under

A delivery drone belonging to Wing developed a technical fault during flight and crash landed on powerlines in Brisbane, Australia yesterday, triggering a power outage that affected thousands of people.

The drone was delivering food in the Brown Plains area south of Brisbane when the accident, which was described as a first by the power utility operator, Energex.

Energex spokesman Danny Donald told ABC Radio Brisbane that people in Browns Plains and the surrounding area lost power yesterday after a drone carrying food hitthe network about 2PM.

Power was restored within 45 minutes for about 2,000 customers; however, 300 others in the immediate vicinity of the accident scene went without power for three more hours before they were back online.

“The meal was still hot inside the drone’s delivery box when the crew got there,” Mr Donald said.

“We’ve never seen these delivery drones hit the network. It’s rare. This is the first time that I’ve seen it happen. It could have simply been an equipment malfunction. It may have been human error.”

Donald said since there was no permanent damage to the network, his company would not be requesting Wing to cover the damage.

Everyone, including companies, had to be careful not to let objects hit power lines or cause damage to the network, he said.

“It’s common sense really, and we’re asking for that common sense to prevail.”

“While this is a different circumstance, it’s no different to the previous generation flying kites. Fifteen years ago, we asked people to be careful if they were giving their children kites for Christmas and where they were flying them. Now we’re asking parents to be very careful with where their kids fly their drones.

“It could bring down live powerlines. The last thing we want is people in danger.”

He however added that if any person or company caused network damage, for example, by reversing into a power pole, Energex could seek the cost of damage repairs.

A spokesperson for Wing, the company that operates the drone delivery, said a drone made a “precautionary controlled landing yesterday … and came to rest on an overhead power line”. 

“We immediately reported this to Energex, who attended the location, the spokesperson said. 

“Two hours later, during the retrieval process, there was a power outage in the area.

“We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused. We’re currently conducting a review of yesterday’s event.

Over the years, a number of objects, including shoes, umbrellas, trampolines, kites and even toilet seats, have caused issues, he said.

Mr Donald said while there was an immediate danger if anything hit live powerlines, there was also a significant inconvenience to residents and businesses that lost power.

“It’s not just homes and businesses. We’re talking street lights and traffic lights and that sort of thing,” he said.

Except for the time when the company drones had a run-in with nesting ravens, Wing has been running a flawless package delivery operation in the Logan area in Brisbane.

Currently, the company is running pilot trials in Texas, USA, which have progressed without incident.


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