It’s always nice when delivery food stays hot all the way to your door, but one drone in Australia may have taken it too far. An unmanned delivery vehicle, operated by Wing — a subsidiary of Alphabet (parent of Google), landed on power lines in Brisbane and fried itself with 11,000 volts of electricity. As a result more than 2,000 homes and businesses briefly went dark on Thursday, according to reports from The Age and ABC News Australia.
Danny Donald, a spokesperson from utility provider Energex, described the incident as a “first” for the land down under to ABC. The company managed to restore power to 2,000 customers within about 45 minutes, but the electricity remained out for 300 others for three hours.
“We didn’t actually have to get the drone off, as such, it actually caught fire and incinerated itself,” Donald reportedly told The Age. The drone fell to the ground, where utility workers found it. “The meal was still hot inside the drone’s delivery box when the crew got there,” he added to ABC.
A Wing spokesperson explained to ABC that the drone “made a precautionary controlled landing yesterday…and came to rest on an overhead power line.” The company said it immediately reported the incident to Energex, apologised for any inconvenience, and noted that it is conducting an internal review.
There was no permanent damage to the power lines or grid, said Donald, so Energex wouldn’t be seeking damages from Wing. However, Donald did issue a warning to people operating drones, telling them to be cautious around power lines. “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,” he told ABC.
The Alphabet-owned company received approval for their autonomous drones to deliver food and medicine in Australia back in 2019. Since then, the service has grown in popularity. Wing delivered more than 50,000 orders in Queensland via drone in the first eight months of 2021. More recently, Wing’s drone delivery has also taken off in Dallas.
Although a first for Brisbane’s Energex, this week’s incident is far from the first time that a drone has been involved in minor chaos. In 2018 a civilian drone may have contributed to a helicopter crash in which no one was injured. And drone sightings now routinely lead to airport shut downs.
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