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As e-commerce retailing continues to soar, a world-first shopping centre drone delivery service is taking off in Queensland, featuring specially designed secondary packaging to carry food and health products safely to the doorsteps of consumers.

Wing, Australia's first on-demand residential drone delivery service, is partnering with Australian retail property group, Vicinity Centres, to pilot a new model of delivery – flying goods from retail shopping centre rooftops, directly to homes and businesses in southeast Queensland.

The partners say the new last-mile delivery model is designed to help retailers “unlock the value of their physical store to optimise omnichannel retail”.

Wing's specially designed, aerodynamic packaging is made from water-resistant polycoated paperboard.
Wing's specially designed, aerodynamic packaging is made from water-resistant polycoated paperboard.

PKN spoke to Jesse Suskin, Wing’s head of Policy & Community Affairs, Australia, about the outer packaging that is attached to the drone to protect and carry the purchased goods for delivery. Suskin says Wing's specially designed, aerodynamic packaging is made from water-resistant polycoated paperboard. Its origami-style design allows the pack to fold closed securely, without any adhesive. The paperboard, along with the polypropylene handle and tabs on the packaging, are recyclable in the suburbs that Wing is delivering to, both in Queensland and in Canberra where it has other operations.

“Our packaging is so unique, consumers want to hold on to it. Some of our customers have sent us pictures showing how they are re-using it as a lunch box or a gift box,” Suskin tells PKN. He said that fresh coffee delivery is one of the most popular orders, and to ensure that there is no spillage, the inside of the pack is fitted with a small cardboard cupholder.

Wing and Vicinity Centres have been piloting the drone delivery service, the first-of-its-kind in the world, from the rooftop of Grand Plaza in Logan, Queensland, since mid-August, delivering goods on-demand from a range of businesses located at the centre directly to consumers, by drone.

A Wing team member collects a customer order from TerryWhite Chemmart to take to the drone launching pad on the rooftop.
A Wing team member collects a customer order from TerryWhite Chemmart to take to the drone launching pad on the rooftop.

Participating businesses include food and beverage outlets Sushi Hub, Boost Juice and Chatime. From today, community pharmacy TerryWhite Chemmart is also offering drone delivery of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, personal care, general health, and beauty products.

In the first six weeks of service, Wing made more than 2500 contactless drone deliveries from Grand Plaza to customers in parts of the Logan suburbs of Regents Park, Heritage Park, Park Ridge, Browns Plains, Marsden, Crestmead, and Berrinba. The service will soon expand to more customers and offer delivery from other businesses located at the centre.

Last month, Wing marked two years of drone delivery service in Logan, having already made more than 50,000 drone deliveries to the local community in 2021. The introduction of this new delivery model follows expansion of the service earlier this year, with Wing now offering delivery to 19 suburbs in Logan with a combined population of more than 110,000 people.

“We’re delighted to explore this new model of delivery with Vicinity Centres. For the first time, we are co-locating our drones with businesses at their premises, rather than local businesses having to co-locate their goods with us at our delivery facility,”  Suskin said.

The drone delivery service, the first-of-its-kind in the world, from the rooftop of Grand Plaza in Logan, Queensland.
The drone delivery service, the first-of-its-kind in the world, from the rooftop of Grand Plaza in Logan, Queensland.

“With the increase in consumers' desire for convenience and speed, on-demand drone delivery can help address the costly last-mile delivery challenge, reduce road congestion and emissions, and create new economic opportunities for businesses by utilising their existing retail space as logistics hubs and fulfillment centres.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the team at Vicinity Centres to further develop new delivery models that can complement the retail businesses located at Grand Plaza, and if successful, potentially roll out similar models in other locations across Vicinity Centres’ retail property portfolio.”

“The retail industry is changing, and Vicinity is employing a test and learn approach in areas critical to the role of Australian shopping centres in the future. We believe the partnership with Wing will be an important component of our overall distribution and fulfillment strategy and support our new growth strategy,” said Vicinity’s chief innovation and information officer, Justin Mills.

“Almost two thirds of Australia’s population live within 30 minutes of one of our 61 strategically located centres. This national footprint provides a strong foundation to implement our distribution and fulfilment strategy by rapidly scaling our drone delivery partnership with Wing and further developing our co-located logistics hubs and micro fulfillment centres.”

Mills said that exploring new technologies like drone delivery means retailers are able to provide customers with game-changing product deliveries in minutes rather than days, while also reducing their carbon footprint.

“Our partnership with Wing is a natural extension of our distribution and fulfilment strategy which will help retailers use physical stores and our shopping centre network to get their products in customer hands quicker and more efficiently.”

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